By Sean Garney of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting LLC & Regulatory Consultant to DriverReach – November 2021
When the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse final rule was published in 2016, the industry cheered it as a victory for road safety. Then, in 2017 when the Association for American Motor Vehicle Administrators submitted a petition for reconsideration claiming that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration failed to fully outline State Driver’s License Agency’s responsibilities under the new rules, the industry knew it would still be a while for the loophole the Clearinghouse sought to close would be finally shut for good. Now, we can finally see the end to this long journey on the distant horizon.
That’s because under new rules, published October 7, 2021, SDLAs must take licensing action against drivers added to the Clearinghouse, giving motor carriers and law enforcement new tools to use to identify these drivers and get them off the road until they’ve completed the required rehabilitation process. These drivers will also be prohibited from upgrading, transferring, or renewing a CDL until they completed the return to duty process (RTD).
Here’s how it’ll work. Whenever a driver presents an application for upgrade, renewal, or transfer to the SDLA, it will verify the driver is not prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle by checking the Clearinghouse before processing the request. Prohibited will have their application denied. For current CDL holders, SDLAs will be notified whenever drivers are newly prohibited and will have 60 days to downgrade the license, which will, at least temporarily, remove privileges necessary to operate a CMV.
How actual knowledge violations are handled is changing too. Under the new rules, if a driver is cited for driving while intoxicated in a CMV but the charges are ultimately dropped or reduced, the driver may petition still the Clearinghouse to have the record corrected, but it will not be removed for five years or until the RTD is completed, whichever is longer. This is more consistent with current federal rules which require the RTD process be completed in the event an actual knowledge violation has occurred.
The new rules for SDLA’s take effect November 18, 2024. The new actual knowledge requirements are effective November 8, 2021.
Stay tuned for Part 2 for more information on what this change will mean to you and your operation.
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