SURREY, B.C. – A truck driver training school in B.C. is under investigation for allegedly speeding up the licensing process with forged documents.
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is investigating the South West Driving Academy, for allegedly helping its students forge truck licensing documents and age papers to look more authentic.
The alleged forgery tactic is thought to have been used in an effort to provide Class 1 licences to students who did not go through the mandatory graduated licence program (GLP).
“In B.C. to get a commercial vehicle licence you have to have been driving for two years as part of the GLP,” explained Doug Henderson of ICBC. “When you come from another jurisdiction, you can provide a proof of experience letter to skip the GLP process.”
Essentially, a driver must have a passenger vehicle licence for two years before being able to train for a commercial vehicle licence. In B.C., training institutes will recognize driving experience from other provinces or other countries to forgo the GLP process, so long as the student can produce a valid experience letter.
After a year-long investigation, ICBC suspects hundreds of fraudulent experience letters have been passed off by students from South West Driving Academy, which has been in operation since 1997.
“There are 161 suspected fraudulent letters, but that number may increase as the investigation continues, we don’t really know at this stage,” Henderson told Truck West.
The insurance corporation executed a search warrant on May 30 at the driving school’s office, but no charges or sanctions have been laid, as the investigation is ongoing.
A Calgary-based driving school was shut down by the Calgary Police Service and made headlines about two years ago for similar allegations.
The school’s operators were alleged to have sped up the licensing process and provided forged documents to hundreds of students. The Calgary investigation stemmed back nearly three years before the charges were brought forth.
Despite the lengthy investigation, the suspects were acquitted of the forgery charges a year later in a Calgary courtroom.
With a rising truck driver shortage and the recent allegations of document forgery, there is some concern this might be a growing problem. But Henderson is confident the majority of the 45 truck driver training schools in B.C. are operating in a legit and professional manner.
“This case is focusing on one driving school, I don’t really know enough about the industry to comment in general,” he said. “But the majority of people are honest and are providing and obtaining licenses legally. So no, this isn’t a widespread problem.”