Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Alabama CDL holders face downgraded licenses due to noncompliance with drug & alcohol requirements

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) State Driver’s License Agency (SDLA) has announced that they have begun the process of reviewing current CDL holders in Alabama and downgrading licenses, not in compliance with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DACH) requirements per a requirement from the FMCSA.

State officials estimate that approximately 1400 to 2000 CDL holders in Alabama will impact this procedure, and about 140 licenses have been downgraded already.

If you employ CDL drivers, please pay attention to the following information.


On October 7, 2021, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a final rule establishing requirements for State Driver’s License Agencies’ (SDLAs) access to and use of driver-specific drug and alcohol program violation information contained in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (86 FR 55718).

The final rule requires that:

  • SDLAs must not issue, renew, upgrade, or transfer a commercial driver’s license (CDL), or commercial learner’s permit (CLP), as applicable, for any individual prohibited under FMCSA’s regulations from performing safety-sensitive functions, including driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), due to one or more drug alcohol program violations.
  • SDLAs must, upon receipt of notification that a driver is prohibited from operating a CMV due to a drug and alcohol program violation, initiate the downgrade process to remove the CLP or CDL privilege from the driver’s license within 60 days.
  • Drivers completing the return-to-duty process before the downgrade process is completed would no longer be prohibited from operating a CMV and thus would no longer be subject to a downgrade. 

 SDLAs have until November 18, 2024 (compliance date) to comply with these requirements. In addition, FMCSA extends the compliance date for the requirement that SDLAs query the Clearinghouse prior to issuing, renewing, upgrading, or transferring a CDL from January 6, 2023, to November 18, 2024. SDLAs currently have the option to voluntarily query the Clearinghouse and may do so up until the compliance date.

Knowing that there will be a rush at the deadline in 2024 and as a proactive measure, the ALEA CDL office has begun this process of reviewing current CDL holders in Alabama and downgrading licenses, not in compliance with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DACH) requirements.

According to the Alabama CDL office, there are approximately 1400 to 2000 CDL holders in Alabama that this procedure will impact and approximately 140 licenses have been downgraded thus far. Once the downgrade has been applied, the driver must complete the DCAH process as required to have his/her license re-activated to full CDL privileges. Once the privileges have been updated, the reinstatement process with the State CDL office may be completed (see attached letter).

Action Recommended

Though the FMCSRs require only an annual query to review a driver’s clearinghouse status, however, we have for several months now encouraged companies to conduct the review at least every 6 months and preferably every quarter. We believe this will assist in keeping drivers on the road and prevent them from being prohibited from performing their duties due to a downgraded license.

Please find a copy of the sample letter from the ALEA CDL office HERE.

It will be sent to any driver facing a downgrade possibility with instructions to correct the infraction and have full CDL privileges reinstated. Feel free to contact ATA Vice President of Safety & Compliance Tim Frazier at tfrazier@alabamatrucking.org should you have questions or need assistance.