Trucking accidents in Illinois linked to unskilled truckers have spiraled upward in the last several years, which is in part a result of many unskilled truck drivers have actually receiving their trucking licenses fraudulently.
In the last five years, the US government has uncovered licensing fraud in 24 states, including Illinois. Thousands of truck drivers nationwide have received licenses under suspicious circumstances. One licensing scheme involves third-party examiners who the state hires to perform the driver testing for truckers.
An Illinois trucking license scandal helped shed some light on the widespread problem of fraudulent driver’s licenses. A federal judge in Chicago remarked during a license fraud case that some of these truckers can be likened to “10-ton torpedoes”.
The judge’s comments came in a case related to a federal and state investigation launched 8 years ago in Illinois involving the sale of trucker’s driver’s licenses that led to the conviction of former Governor George Ryan on federal corruption charges. It was discovered that trucking licenses in Illinois were essentially for sale regardless of results on driving exams. That probe showed that unskilled truck drivers on Illinois highways lead to at least the deaths of 9 individuals.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees trucking safety in the United States. Part of the problem with fraudulent licensing is that it is difficult, if not impossible, for the US Transportation Department Office of Inspector General to audit or force states to locate drivers with suspicious licenses. However, a spokesman for the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General believes that it has the power to root out unqualified drivers.
Commercial driving license fraud has been growing since the industry began to deregulate more than 20 years ago. Since 1980, the number of interstate trucking firms has risen from 20,000 to approximately 560,000 today. Estimates show that there are 1.5 million truck drivers on the road today, which is up from about 200,000 in 2002. Many of these drivers are lured by the notion that they would receive good-paying jobs as commercial truck drivers. Accordingly, these individuals hurry to find the driving schools that offer would-be drivers the schooling to obtain these commercial driving licenses.
The safety issues associated with unqualified truck drivers are enormous. It creates a scenerio where unqualified truck drivers are driving large trucks with heavy cargo that endanger the driving public and leads to an increase in trucking accidents.
A recent Missouri case illustrates this point. Missouri officials were preparing to send a letter to a truck driver asking him to retake his commercial driver’s license test when the driving school he had attended was suspected of fraudulently providing licenses for several hundred truck drivers, many of whom are immigrants. However, the letter to this trucker never arrived because he was killed in an October 2008 collision that took the life of an Oklahoma state trooper.