Changes in FMCSA Rules Are Coming: Here’s What to Know

Sarah Lucky

In November 2024, a new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule will go into effect that could impact the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of commercial drivers nationwide.1 As part of these new regulations, drivers who test positive for drug use will not only receive a driving status as “prohibited,” they will also lose their commercial driver’s license until they complete the necessary return-to-work process.

To return to good standing and be able to return to earning compensation for driving, these drivers will have to undergo a lengthy process established by 49 CFR part 40, subpart O, that requires drivers to:3

  • Select a substance abuse professional (SAP) from an employer-provided list
  • Complete an education or treatment plan recommended by the SAP
  • Take and pass the return-to-duty test, per request by the employer
  • Only when a negative return-to-duty test result is entered in Clearinghouse will the status change to “not prohibited”
  • Remain in not-prohibited status by passing a minimum of six unannounced follow-up tests in the first year back on the job

When a driver becomes “prohibited” within the FMCSA Clearinghouse, they have lost their ability to operate any commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on public roadways. Without the ability to drive, these drivers are unable to complete their jobs and, in workplace settings where driving is essential, are faced with the reality of unemployment. Add to that the fact that most companies will not even consider hiring applicants with a prohibited status – no matter where they are in the return-to-work process4 – and the employment future is dim for any driver who tests positive.

A Prevalent Problem

As of March 1, 2024, there are more than 235 thousand drivers with at least one violation,1 according to the FMCSA Clearinghouse monthly report. Of those, 69 percent are still in “prohibited status”, meaning only 31 percent have completed the current process and received a negative return-to-duty test screen. An even smaller number (only seven percent) have completed the full follow-up testing plan. With no signs of these numbers decreasing, more and more drivers are opting to leave the trucking business completely, rather than complete the process and return to duty.

But what does this mean for employers? Any driver who is listed as “prohibited” and elects to not complete the return-to-duty process will need to be replaced. And with finding replacement drivers, comes the financial cost of recruitment and onboarding new employees, as well as the time required for completing these same processes – time that employers have at least one less driver on the road.

To help avoid these constraints and get drivers who do have a violation through the return-to-duty process and back on the road, employers may be wondering what they can do to help.

Communication is Key

In the months leading up to this change, employers must be educating drivers on the upcoming change and the potential impact it could have. Employers must communicate clearly regarding the return-to-duty process and provide details on what it entails. This process may seem complicated and overwhelm many drivers but outlining clear steps and providing timelines can clear up this confusion and make the process seem less daunting for those who must complete it.

According to a 2023 “Guide to the Clearinghouse Return to Duty Process,” posted on,6 this return-to-duty process is a “vital navigation tool” for employers to keep drivers moving in the right direction and return to driving safely after the violation has occurred. To keep drivers moving along in the process, communication is key and not only provides clear direction for drivers but also keeps the employer abreast of progress.

In the same article, the authors outline additional employer best practices for handling the return-to-duty process, including:

  • Thorough knowledge of the process. This helps ensure compliance and enables employers to answer questions drivers may have.
  • Provision of driver support. This can come in the form of providing resources to help drivers get, and stay drug-free, or may be as simple as providing moral support as drivers work through the return-to-duty process.
  • Maintenance of accurate, up-to-date records. Accurate documentation helps paint a clear picture of where the driver stands in the process and helps define the next steps to keep the process moving.
  • Promotion of a positive environment that supports recovery and completion of the return-to-duty process.6

When a Driver Becomes Prohibited

When communicating with drivers about the intricacies of the return-to-duty process, it is also important to communicate coping strategies for drivers facing “prohibited status.” Studies have shown that finances, or lack thereof, make a significant impact on employee stress levels.5 When faced with the possibility of losing their source of income, drivers in an already high-stress occupation may be pushed to the breaking point. Without knowing how to cope with this devastating news, they may lash out at the health care workers who administered the drug test.

Employers are encouraged to ensure drivers exhibit proper behavior any time they are in a drug-testing facility, for the safety of all health care personnel, and to protect employers from any legal ramifications that could result from an upset driver lashing out. Specifically for Concentra®, abuse of any kind, including verbal, will not be tolerated, as outlined in our zero-tolerance policy.

Concentra Resources to Help

Concentra offers convenient and efficient drug testing  within the parameters of applicable state and federal laws for non-regulated employment drug testing, that can help employers and their drivers navigate the return-to-duty process. Specifically, Concentra performs pre-placement, reasonable suspicion or cause, random, and post-accident drug testing. Concentra also provides all results within days of being received and processed by the lab to keep the return-to-duty process moving as quickly as possible.

Concentra also offers Concentra HUB , an employer portal that can be easily accessed 24/7 and that houses all drug test results. Additionally, employers can submit authorizations for required drug screens utilizing this tool. With Concentra HUB, employers can better manage the necessary records for a driver’s return-to-duty process.


  1. February 2024 Monthly Summary Report: Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Accessed April 29, 2024.
  2. FMCSA Updates SMS Website, CPDP and Clearinghouse Updates. FMCSA. Accessed April 29, 2024. 
  3. RTD Driver Insert 508. FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearing House Learning Center Resource. FMCSA-MCE-23-001.
  4. Truck Drivers Who Fail Drug Tests: Where are They Going? Eric Miller. Transport Topics News. Published October 11, 2023. Accessed April 29, 2024.
  5. The real costs of employee financial stress—and how employers can help - the parks group | morgan stanley. (n.d.).
  6. 2023 Guide to the Clearinghouse Return to Duty Process: Implications, Steps, & Tips. Published January 20, 2023. Accessed April 30, 2024.