Photo/Story Gallery 2005

FHP Investigates CDL School

On Wednesday, August 24, 2005, members of the Florida Highway Patrol’s Bureau of Investigations (BOI) and the Jacksonville State Attorney’s Office conducted a sting operation on a Jacksonville commercial drivers licensing (CDL) school. Two proprietors were arrested after an investigation determined that the school issued bogus license certificates to truck drivers who did not successfully complete the driving portion of the CDL test.

Sgt. Michael Dubois led the investigation, assisted by the rest of the Jacksonville BOI team, including Lt. Mike Stacy, Trpr. Richie Blanco, and Cpl. Bert Williams. The BOI also thanks Troop G Troopers Paul Tompkins and Michael Mims who were part of the arrest team.

Truck driving school raid a hit to local companies
Published in the Florida Times-Union, August 25, 2005

State allegations that a Jacksonville truck driving school issued fraudulent licenses could put even more of a squeeze on a myriad of local transportation companies already facing a shortage of commercial drivers.

The State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol shut down a local school known as Truck Driver Placement on Wednesday, arresting businessmen David Luck and Arthur Hammonds for unlawful driver’s license issuance and organized scheme to defraud.

Instead of testing potential drivers by having them drive a “technically challenging course,” the men had students drive the equivalent of a city block, the State Attorney’s Office said.

Some 1,200 truckers could have fraudulent commercial licenses, which will require them to be re-tested in order to remain on the roads, said Assistant State Attorney Steve Siegel. It’s unclear what penalties are faced by drivers if they continue to use the licenses. The drivers should receive letters from the Highway Patrol or state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles telling them they need to be re-tested.

That could be bad news for the transportation companies that make up a significant slice of the Jacksonville economy.

“That’s a substantial number of potential drivers out there,” said Philip Abraira, president of the Florida Trucking Association in Tallahassee. “With driver shortages, that could have a bit of an impact.”

Nationally, trucking companies are looking to hire about 20,000 drivers, said Jerry James Jr., who handles driving development for Jacksonville-based Cypress Truck Lines Inc.

“We are always hunting and seeking qualified drivers,” he said. “There’s already a significant driver shortage.”

Cypress has its own driving school, James said, and all drivers it takes on have to serve as trainees for several weeks before they’re sent out on the road by themselves.

Although finding drivers has been difficult, particularly recently, officials at the area’s larger transportation companies said they were not as concerned about drivers who weren’t correctly trained.

The reason: Larger companies — and particularly the publicly traded companies that call Jacksonville home — say they hire drivers who have been in the business for a while and can prove they know how to drive safely.

“We don’t hire at all directly out of school,” said Adam Gawrysh, director of truck operations for Jacksonville-based Trailer Bridge Inc. “We look for a driver that has a little more experience.”

Fraudulent schools seem to pop up every few years, said Larry Lark, president of National Truck Driver School, a Green Cove Springs school that has been in operation for almost three decades.

“There’s always some character out there that thinks they can beat the system and make a few fast bucks,” he said.