The discovery of what federal investigators are calling an illegal commercial driver license scheme – that helped more than 600 people get Florida commercial drivers’ licenses without proper training – has raised new concerns about unqualified truckers on the highways of our state.
Many of the students in the scheme were Russian-speaking immigrants living in New York, Illinois, California and Virginia, according to federal-court documents.
Investigators say most of the drivers found out about the commercial license training through a now-defunct website — russiantruckingschool.com — and then traveled to Florida to obtain licenses to use back in their home state, according to federal court documents.
Authorities said it only took a few days to get a license through the school and usually cost each person between $2,000.00 and $5,000.00.
In July, United States Attorney, A. Lee Bentley, III, announced an indictment against four men with conspiracy to aid and abet the unlawful production of Florida drivers’ licenses and commercial drivers’ licenses (“CDLs”). If convicted on all counts, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.
The alleged scheme raises a number of concerns about truck accidents caused by these unqualified drivers and the liability of the carriers and employers hiring them. As Jacksonville trucking accident lawyers, we have seen many instances in which trucking companies put drivers on the roads who should not have been there in the first place.
The evidence of the federal investigation is shocking due to its scope. The alleged scam involved more than 600 invalid commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs) issued in Florida — to Russian-speaking truck drivers who did not receive appropriate training.
Apart from this scam, we already face a multitude of problems with unfit truck drivers. Many of the drivers who cause truck accidents on the roads of Florida have legitimate commercial licenses but may be unfit to drive due to other reasons. These include:
Drunk Driving – a trucking company has a responsibility to check a driver for past offenses involving alcohol or drugs and federal regulations set out strict drug and alcohol testing rules and regulations for employees who drive commercial trucks and buses that require a commercial driver’s license.
Distracted Driving – cell phone use, texting, interacting with passengers and even surfing the internet have all resulted in unnecessary and avoidable trucking accidents.
Driving while Drowsy – As many as one in five accidents are caused by drowsy driving and driving hours longer than allowed and untreated sleep apnea are big issues in the trucking industry. Trucking companies are responsible for making sure their drivers take mandated breaks, stay within allowed maximum driving hours and do not have untreated conditions that can cause safety issues.
Speeding – Truckers are under a lot of pressure to make deliveries on time and may put their foot on the gas in an attempt to catch up. At a higher rate of speed there is less time for truckers to react to other drivers and road conditions. Speeding can also lead to potentially fatal blow outs of heavy truck tires. Between 2009 and 2013, heavy trucks and buses were responsible for 14,000 fatal accidents. According to government figures, 223 of those fatalities were related to heavy truck tires that failed.
Two catastrophic truck accidents in less than a month on I-16 near Savannah, Georgia, not far from the Florida line, earlier this year highlighted the dangers posed by big rigs. Each crash claimed the lives of five people on the Interstate.
Written by David Macaulay
The Jacksonville area is a major transportation corridor that sees many tractor trailer accidents. Our Jacksonville truck accident team have handled personal injury and wrongful death cases arising from trucking accidents for more than 20 years. Call us for a free consultation at (904) 632-0077.