States Will Downgrade CDLs Quickly for Recent FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Violations

States Will Downgrade CDLs Quickly for Recent FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Violations

FMCSA Will Notify States of Recent Drug and Alcohol Violations and Require States 60 Days to Revoke CDLs

One of the biggest FMCSA drug testing loopholes is closing as state driver license agencies (SLDAs) will soon be required to initiate the downgrade process for licenses of drivers who have a drug or alcohol violation in the Clearinghouse.

States are already required to check FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse database for violations before issuing new licenses or renewing the licenses and must not “issue, renew, upgrade or transfer a commercial driver’s license, or commercial learner’s permit when a driver has tested positive for drugs or alcohol.”

As of August, 87,438 drivers had at least one drug or alcohol violation, according to the Clearinghouse database.

However, most of these state agencies do not currently receive the CDL driver drug and alcohol violations when they first happen.

“Therefore, these SDLAs are unaware when a commercial motor vehicle operator is subject to the driving prohibition, and the CMV operator continues to hold a valid CDL or CLP, despite the driving prohibition,” said a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in their announcement.

Federal regulators are requiring SDLAs to remove the CDL holders driving privileges within 60 days after being notified of a test failure and prohibiting certain CDL transactions for drivers in the database.

There are two ways the FMCSA will notify state agencies:

  • FMCSA will “push” the information to the SDLA whenever a drug or alcohol program violation is reported to the Clearinghouse for a CLP or CDL holder licensed in that State.
  • FMCSA will also “push” a notification to the SDLA when the driver complies with return-to-duty requirements and is no longer prohibited from operating a CMV.

In addition, “if FMCSA determines that a driver was erroneously identified as prohibited, the Agency will notify the SDLA that the individual is not prohibited from operating a CMV; the SDLA must promptly reinstate the commercial driving privilege to the driver’s license, and expunge the driving record accordingly.”

Future of the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and Exemption Requests

The rule will help keep unsafe drivers off the road by increasing compliance “with the CMV driving prohibition”.

Most of the licensing agencies said that even if FMCSA notified the driver of an impending downgrade, they would still be required to notify the driver directly, as required by state law.

The rule is effective Nov. 8, 2021 and states must achieve “substantial compliance” with the applicable requirements of the final rule as soon as practicable, but not later than Nov. 18, 2024.

Need Clearinghouse and Compliance help?

It is important to note that effective January 6, 2023, the FMCSA clearinghouse will become the sole query source for employers to meet the requirement to identify prospective drivers with drug and alcohol violations.

Right now, carriers must request previous employment for drug testing history and query the Clearinghouse database.

Carriers must also perform a clearinghouse query on all drivers annually. If non-compliance surfaces in a compliance review or safety audit, a carrier faces a fine of up to $2,500 per offense.

CNS offers a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Service and are a certified consortium and third-party administrator (C/TPA).

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or

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