FMCSA Warning: Drivers Who Test Positive Face CDL Loss in 2024

FMCSA Warning

FMCSA Warning:

Late next year, significant changes are set to reshape the landscape for commercial truck drivers in the United States, as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reinforces its commitment to road safety. In a recent announcement, the FMCSA emphasized that truck drivers who test positive for drug use will not only face prohibited driving status but will also risk losing their Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs). The new regulations, part of the FMCSA’s final rule issued in October 2021, will come into effect by November 18, 2024.

The Warning: A Recap

Prohibited Driving Status:

The FMCSA’s notice, issued on Nov. 28, serves as a stern warning to truck drivers. Those who test positive for drug use will be immediately placed on prohibited driving status, preventing them from performing safety-sensitive functions, including operating Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs), for any Department of Transportation (DOT)-regulated employer.

CDL Loss and Return-to-Duty Process:

However, the repercussions extend further. By the specified date in 2024, drivers with a ‘prohibited’ status in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse will not only lose their state-issued commercial driving privileges but will also be denied the issuance of learning permits until they successfully complete the federal return-to-work process.

The Final Rule and Its Objectives

Improving Safety Through Compliance:

The FMCSA’s final rule, issued in October 2021, aims to enhance road safety by increasing compliance with CMV driving prohibitions. It emphasizes the responsibility of drivers to complete the return-to-work process successfully before regaining access to safety-sensitive functions.

Employer Support and Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs):

The final rule mandates that employers provide drivers with a list of DOT-qualified substance abuse professionals for education and treatment. Drivers have the freedom to choose their SAP based on their own research. The SAP will then assess when a driver has successfully completed their eligibility for retesting.

Follow-Up Testing Plan:

To maintain a ‘not prohibited’ status, employers must collaborate with drivers to implement a follow-up testing plan as specified by the SAP. This plan must include a minimum of six unannounced follow-up tests in the first 12 months of returning to performing safety-sensitive functions.

The Impact of the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

Positive Outcomes:

The FMCSA notes that the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse has had a positive impact by removing large numbers of drivers caught using drugs from the highways. The Clearinghouse, in operation since January 2020, has recorded 224,000 positive drug and alcohol tests as of the end of September 2023.

Persistent Concerns:

Despite these positive outcomes, concerns linger about drivers remaining in prohibited driving status after failing drug tests. The data reveals that 149,374 drivers were still in prohibited status as of September, with 113,639 yet to commence the return-to-work program.

Marijuana Testing and Industry Dynamics

Zero Tolerance:

Marijuana presents a unique challenge as it is legal in many states, yet truck drivers face zero tolerance. The ATRI study highlights that despite being legal in certain contexts, using marijuana can cause drivers to fail drug tests.

Driver Movement Patterns:

A persistent concern is the apparent movement of drivers who test positive for substances to other industries or roles. While the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has provided insights into marijuana test failures, the FMCSA acknowledges the need for further research to explain driver movement patterns.

Conclusion: Navigating a Safer Future

As the trucking industry prepares for these significant regulatory changes, it underscores the importance of accountability, responsibility, and a commitment to safety. The FMCSA’s drug and alcohol program aims to improve safety by holding individual drivers accountable for violations, emphasizing the completion of return-to-duty requirements as a prerequisite for reentry into the industry. As the industry adapts to these new norms, the focus remains on creating a safer and more responsible future for commercial truck drivers in the United States.

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