CDL Downgrade Warning

CDL Downgrade Warning – 163K Drivers Must Act by November 18

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has set a critical deadline for commercial truck drivers holding a “prohibited” status in the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. Starting November 18, 2024, State Driver’s Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) will revoke commercial driving privileges for drivers facing a CDL Downgrade Warning. With over 163,000 CDL and CLP holders currently holding a “prohibited” status, it’s vital to understand the impact of this deadline and how to address it.

Understanding the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

The FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse is an online database that tracks violations of the drug and alcohol testing program. It was established to provide employers, law enforcement, and SDLAs with real-time access to driver records related to:

  • Positive substance use tests
  • Refusals to test
  • Other drug and alcohol program violations

You can read more information about regulations in the trucking industry.

Registrations Overview

Since registration began on September 28, 2019:

  • CDL/CLP holders, employers, MROs, SAPs, and C/TPAs are all required to register.
  • As of February 2024, thousands of drivers and organizations are now registered.

Query Types and Trends

Employers must query the Clearinghouse:

  • Pre-Employment Queries: When hiring new drivers
  • Annual Queries: For current employees

Query Statistics:

  • Total queries conducted since January 2020 have grown significantly.
  • Full queries (including those elevated from limited queries) represent a substantial portion of the overall queries.

Violations and Return-to-Duty (RTD) Process

Types of Violations:

  • Controlled Substance (Drug) Violations: Positive drug tests, refusal to test
  • Alcohol Violations: Positive alcohol tests, refusal to test

Violation Trends:

  • Over 261,425 test results with violations have been reported to the Clearinghouse since January 2020.
  • Marijuana metabolites account for 81% of the violations, with cocaine and methamphetamine also being significant contributors.

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Return-to-Duty (RTD) Process

The RTD process is critical for CDL/CLP holders to restore their driving privileges. Key steps include:

  1. Initial SAP Assessment: Drivers must undergo an evaluation by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).
  2. Education/Treatment Plan: Based on the assessment, the SAP develops an education/treatment plan.
  3. Follow-Up Testing Plan: After completing treatment, the SAP establishes a follow-up testing plan.
  4. RTD Test with Negative Result: Once the RTD test is passed, drivers are eligible to return to safety-sensitive functions.

Upcoming CDL Downgrade Warning Rules

The second Final Rule (Clearinghouse-II) issued by FMCSA in October 2021 requires SDLAs to:

  • Revoke commercial driving privileges for drivers with “prohibited” status.
  • Downgrade licenses until the driver completes the RTD process.

What This Means for Truck Drivers

If you hold a “prohibited” status due to a drug or alcohol violation:

  1. Act Quickly: Begin the RTD process immediately.
  2. SAP Assessment: Schedule and complete an initial assessment with a Substance Abuse Professional.
  3. Complete Treatment: Follow the SAP’s recommended education/treatment plan.
  4. Negative RTD Test: Pass the RTD test to regain eligibility.

With the November 18, 2024, deadline approaching, drivers facing a CDL Downgrade Warning must start the RTD process immediately to prevent license downgrades. Employers should actively use the Clearinghouse to ensure compliance and maintain a safe workforce. As a vital tool for improving road safety, the FMCSA Clearinghouse provides transparency and accountability, benefiting the entire trucking industry.

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