Earlier this year we had reports of phony training and falsified documentation in the Class 1 licensing process in Calgary.
The Calgary police had uncovered a school that allegedly falsified documents and medical exams to help 172 people obtain a licence.
A few years ago it was the state of Illinois that discovered a ring that specialized in acquiring driving licences for people who had never taken a test, or for that matter, even established their identity.
That ring, it was alleged, made big money from the sale of phony licences.
Added to those woes, late in 2005, we received news of allegations of fraud, theft, and loss in Ontario’s licensing system, with what some suspected is potential links to organized crime.
The Auditor General’s report identified some 56,000 documents that have been lost or stolen while under the control of Ministry of Transportation staff or private contractors that operate parts of the system.
The report also pointed to a lack of adequate background checks on new hires, which has resulted in persons with criminal records being put in charge of these documents.
The missing items include documents, plates, plate stickers, temporary licences, as well as vehicle and trip permits.
The auditor reported that over 49,000 high-risk items are missing and over 7,000 more have been reported stolen.
There was a time when we could consider this just another ‘white collar’ crime without any real victims.
That is if you didn’t count the insurance companies and the victims of any of the accidents that result from unqualified individuals having an ersatz licence.
But now we live in a different era, one that we like to think has heightened security awareness and we cannot dismiss this type of activity so quickly.
A driver’s licence is a valuable document.
It is used to establish one’s identity – it’s not just something to show enforcement officers on request.
The driver’s licence can get a person on an airplane and can get you across the border – at least at this time – two of the activities that warrant top of the line security these days.
Our U.S. neighbours already suspect that Canada’s security apparatus does not meet their standards, and want to impose additional qualifiers and documentation requirements for cross-border travellers.
The news that the licensing system is ripe with problems may give credence to their thinking.
A spokesperson for U.S. Homeland Security, Joanna Gonzalez, is reported to have commented that Ontario’s problems with licensing will only bolster calls for higher security.
Of course, since a similar problem also happened in Illinois it puts the U.S. in the proverbial glass house and they need to be careful about tossing stones around.
That said, the custodians of the system should not be in the position of having to apologize and react – they should have been doing the job of managing properly.
On to another topic for just a moment: last year at this time, I was asked for a ‘wish list’ for 2005 and in that list I included a resolution to the Canadian Hours-of-Service issue; and having truck driving recognized in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) as a skilled profession. Well thank goodness the first wish was granted.
We have agreement on a new Hours-of-Service regime and the jurisdictions are busily working on all the administrative details that will allow for a launch come Jan. 1, 2007. It’s nice to have that behind us.
We didn’t get quite so far with redefining the job of the professional truck driver, although lots of work is being done – particularly by the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council – and there may be hope.
Identifying commercial truck driving as a skilled profession is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it opens the immigration door just a little wider and could help us solve the current and forecasted shortage of drivers.
–The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. This column presents opinions on trucking issues from the perspective of private carriers. Your comments are invited and can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org