Studies between 2003 and 2007 revealed that licensing fraud exists in at least 24 states. When federal investigators learn of licensing fraud, they move to retest and reexamine all drivers who have received their licenses under suspicious circumstances. However, experts estimate that there may be thousands of unqualified drivers who have received their trucking licenses from suspect sources.
In many cases, licensing fraud involves third-party examiners who are hired by states. These examiners are responsible for driver testing but unscrupulous examiners, investigators claim, take cash in exchange for a passing grade. This system allows some drivers to literally buy licenses, even if they are unqualified to operate a truck. Worse, some states have very lax attitudes about licensing, and some are unable to help federal investigators by providing lists of licensed drivers.
According to the U.S. Transportation Department, incorrectly licensed truck drivers are a major danger on the roads. These drivers are operating huge machines which can cause multiple fatalities and serious personal injuries in car collisions, rollovers, and other types of accidents. Unlicensed drivers who have not had adequate testing and training may make more mistakes than correctly prepared drivers, increasing the risk of accidents.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the agency charged with overseeing trucking safety. The agency contacts drivers it believes have not been correctly tested and requests retesting. However, the agency does not believe it has the jurisdiction to remove these drivers from the road in the event that they are shown to be unqualified. The Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General does believe that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has the right to remove unsafe drivers from the road. Confusion over the regulations may keep unsafe truck drivers on the roads, according to trucking experts.
In Florida, the Division of Driver Licenses relies heavily on third-party tested to provide truck driving tests, simply because the state cannot hire enough private testers to meet demands for testing. In the late 1990s, after a truck driver licensing scam in Illinois, Florida was forced to examine its use of third-party testers when it was revealed that a Tampa school was offering licenses for cash, almost without testing. Many of the drivers being licensed to drive through the school were not even Florida residents. Although Florida has aimed to tighten regulations since then, most experts agree that the state cannot stop licensing fraud. Third-party testers are hard to regulate closely due to their sheer numbers.