New Mexico Adopts Clearinghouse Screen for CDLs

Move Ensures State Won't Lose Transportation-Related Federal Funding
Michelle Lujan Grisham at a past event
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at a past event. (Steven St John/Bloomberg News)

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To avoid losing $6.2 million in federal highway grants, New Mexico lawmakers enacted legislation requiring federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse results be used before granting commercial driver licenses.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 269 on March 30 to require the state Motor Vehicle Division to use results from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse to determine whether a commercial driver is qualified to obtain, renew or transfer a CDL or commercial learner’s permit.

The new law, which added a section to the New Mexico Commercial Driver’s License Act, will take effect Jan. 1. The legislation was cosponsored by state Reps. Harry Garcia (D), vice chair of the House committee on transportation, public works and capital improvements, and Jason Harper (R). It passed the House with a unanimous vote (66-0) on March 1, before heading to the Senate where it passed on a 29-8 vote before going to the governor’s desk.

Motivation to pass the law was to bring New Mexico into compliance with a federal deadline for states to use the Clearinghouse in order to continue receiving federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program grants. The MCSAP is a federal grant program that provides states with financial help to reduce the number and severity of crashes and hazardous materials incidents involving commercial motor vehicles.

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A fiscal legislative analysis from the state Department of Taxation and Revenue indicated that failing to pass the law by the November 2024 deadline could cost New Mexico a loss of $6.2 million over two years in federal money and every two years thereafter.

Noncompliance with the federal regulation also could have impacted the state’s highway funds from the federal government, resulting in “an indeterminate financial impact” on the New Mexico Department of Transportation even though the federal regulation requires that on or after Nov. 18, 2024, a state’s chief commercial driver’s licensing official (Motor Vehicle Division) must obtain a commercial vehicle driver’s record from the Clearinghouse if the driver has applied for a CDL or commercial learner’s permit from that state.

The Clearinghouse enables FMCSA, employers and others to identify drivers who are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle based on U.S. Department of Transportation drug and alcohol program violations. It also ensures such drivers receive required evaluation and treatment before operating a commercial motor vehicle on public roads.

Information maintained in the Clearinghouse helps identify drivers who commit a drug or alcohol program violation while working for one employer, but who fail to subsequently inform another employer as required by current regulations. Records of drug and alcohol program violations remain in the Clearinghouse for five years, or until the driver has completed a return-to-duty process, whichever is later.

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