CDL Holders Beware: The Impact of a Positive Test on Your License

According to new regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), CDL holders are subject to stricter penalties if they do not successfully complete the return to duty process.

Currently, if a driver fails a DOT drug or alcohol test, they must be immediately removed from any safety-sensitive duties. They are placed in a “prohibited” status in the DOT clearinghouse and they cannot resume driving a commercial vehicle until they complete the Return to Duty process.

Many drivers have elected to seek employment outside the industry and not go through the return to duty process. Their records remain in the clearinghouse database as “prohibited” status, but it has no effect on their CDL license.

Effective Nov. 18, 2024, the process will change. Any commercial vehicle drivers in a “prohibited” status in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse will lose their commercial driving privileges unless they complete the return-to-duty (RTD) process.

What is the RTD process?

The RTD process requires you to find a DOT qualified substance abuse professional (SAP). You must meet with the SAP for an evaluation and assessment. The SAP will outline an individualized series of steps for you to complete. The SAP will serve as a referral source to assist you in finding the education and/or treatment program(s) needed.

Upon completion of these processes, the SAP will conduct a follow-up evaluation with you to determine your eligibility to be considered for return to safety-sensitive duty. You MUST also have a negative return-to-duty drug/alcohol test result before returning to safety-sensitive duty.

The Cost of Non-Compliance

When the new federal rule is implemented, violators will be labeled as “prohibited” and will have their CDLs revoked. Those holding a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) will also lose their permit.

The average truck driver salary in the United States is $83,158 per year.  The average cost to obtain a SAP and go through the RTD process is $400-$500. This is a small price to pay to retain your CDL license and your career.

Steps to Take When Your CDL Is on the Line

Even if your current employer terminates you, there are many second-chance trucking companies looking for qualified candidates. It doesn’t mean the end of your career if you take the steps to complete the RTD process.

Immediately find a DOT qualified SAP. If you are unsure, contact an organization like American Substance Abuse Professionals (ASAP). ASAP can provide you with a dedicated case manager and connect you with a DOT qualified SAP in your local area as soon as possible. 

ASAP has a nationwide network qualified SAPs to assist you in the DOT return-to-duty process, which is sometimes referred to as the SAP referral program. Working with ASAP means your SAP is guaranteed to be DOT qualified. ASAP practices ongoing credentialing reviews that make certain that each SAP has up-to-date credentials before performing a DOT SAP evaluation.

Does this ruling apply to State Licensing?

The Clearinghouse-II final rule (86 FR 55718) requires that, beginning November 18, 2024, State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) must remove the commercial driving privileges from the driver’s license of an individual subject to the CMV driving prohibition. This would result in a downgrade of the license until the driver completes the return-to-duty (RTD) process.

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