On April 28, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) filed a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register, proposing new licensing rules. Specifically, the FMCSA aims to create limits on State Driver’s Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) to issue, renew, upgrade, or transfer commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) or commercial learner’s permits (CLP) for individuals who are prohibited from driving a commercial motor vehicle due to drug and alcohol program violations identified by the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse created by the FMCSA. The Clearinghouse online database currently has over 650,000 registrants and provides real-time data to the FMCSA, state driver licensing agencies, employers of CDL drivers, and law enforcement officials, helping to identify drivers who have violated federal drug and alcohol testing program requirements.
“These proposed changes would improve highway safety by increasing compliance with existing drug and alcohol program requirements,”from FMCSA April 28th notice
Prior to the launch of the Clearinghouse created by the FMCSA, carriers did not have real-time access to driver violations and mostly relied on self-reporting. Under the current regulations, a driver who has violated the drug and alcohol program can continue to hold a valid CDL, despite being prohibited from operating a commercial vehicle until completing specific return-to-duty requirements. However, according to the FMCSA notice, the current regulations can create an information gap.
“These drivers, who are illegally operating a CMV, are thus able to evade detection by roadside enforcement personnel,” the notice reads. According to the notice, the CMV driving ban is intended to prevent risky drivers from being on the road until they comply with return-to-duty requirements.
The FMCSA also currently seeks input on alternate proposals to identify more ways for state agencies to use the Clearinghouse information to improve compliance with the commercial driving prohibition. Further, the FMCSA plans to revise the process of maintenance of violation reports in the Clearinghouse. This includes the way the government handles initial citations, regardless of the driver’s conviction. In addition, according to the filing, drivers who are not convicted would have the option to petition to “add documentary evidence of that fact to their clearinghouse record.”