Associated Press (Memphis, Tennessee); Saturday, January 24, 2009
HEADLINE: Retesting required for commercial license holders
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The state is notifying more than 1,000 commercial truck drivers licensed in Tennessee that they must be retested on their driving skills.
The drivers were originally tested between May 2005 and January 2008 by a third-party testing company under contract with the Tennessee Department of Safety.
The company failed to administer its skills testing according to state regulations, the department said without giving further details.
Mike Browning, a department spokesman, refused to identify the company but said the testing was done in Millington, near Memphis. Statewide, the Department of Safety contracts with 54 third-party companies for such testing, Browning said.
The drivers are being notified by mail and have 30 days to get retested or face losing their licenses. Fees for the new testing will be waived.
“This is a matter of public safety,” Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell said in a statement. “Operating a commercial vehicle is a great responsibility, and we will do everything possible to make sure that Tennessee roads are safe for everyone who travels on them.”
The department said it also has identified an undisclosed number of drivers who were tested in Millington and are now living or working in other states. Letters have been sent to those states suggesting that the drivers should be retested.
Under state regulations, any commercial drivers in Tennessee who elect to have their driving skills tested by third-party contractors can be required to undergo retesting at state testing centers, the Department of Safety said.
The Commercial Appeal newspaper, which first reported on the problem after getting e-mail questions from truck drivers who have been told they will need to be tested again, said among those who may be affected are 1,200 drivers in Georgia, 400 in Ohio, 300 in New York, 600 in Florida, 400 in Mississippi, 100 in Arkansas and 300 in Alabama.
David Berry, a spokesman for Swift Driving Academy of Millington, said he did not know if the drivers were trained at the school, which has given up its third-party testing agreement with the state.
“We don’t know if it’s us or not,” Berry said.
The school, which has trained drivers from around the country, ended its skills testing program following disclosure early last year that the FBI had seized company business records. Federal investigators refuse to say what they are looking for and no criminal charges have been filed.
Berry said the school does not believe the quality of training is in question, though the state suspended its skills testing contract when the federal investigation became public.
“They temporarily suspended us and we made an independent decision to just quit doing it,” he said.