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40 per cent increase in accidents, “fake” driving schools: could there be a connection?

In July, the OPP shared a graphic indicating that collisions involving commercial vehicles have increased by 40 per cent. Image: OPP

New Truckers “Don’t know what they don’t know”

A 40 per cent increase in accidents and fake driving schools: could there be a connection?

During July’s “Operation Safe Driver” week, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) shared an alarming graphic indicating that collisions involving commercial vehicles have increased by 40 per cent over this time last year.

“The collisions account for 22 per cent of OPP-investigated fatal roadway collisions and mark a 40 percent increase in transport truck-involved crashes over this time last year. Twenty-nine (29) of the collisions were fatal, resulting in 40 people being killed,” the accompanying OPP media release indicates. It cites careless and aggressive driving as the causes or contributing factors in the majority of the 4,274 collisions that have involved a large commercial motor vehicle this year.

In the same information release, Road Warrior News was able to obtain for the first time the media release which accompanied the announcement of an investigation involving six individuals who have been charged in a serious fraudulent scheme involving:

  • use of an interpreter to fraudulently complete required licensing knowledge tests
  • non-Ontario residents applying for an Ontario driver’s licence
  • circumvention of the Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) standard

Investigators identified over 200 incidents in which students had committed a variety of fraudulent activities to obtain a commercial vehicle licence.

(Both releases are posted below; RWN covered several of these items in earlier articles, before the OPP confirmed it was investigating them).

Jeff Orr, co-founder of the group “Truckers for Safer Highways” told RWN it’s not hard to see that the two occurrences are likely related.

“Do I think some of the ‘graduates’ of fake driving schools might be involved in the increase in accidents? Of course I do,” he said in evident frustration. ”I would say they are definitely connected. I feel the training and lack of training is caused quite a mess out here on the highways.

“You see it with your eyes daily, weekly. I’ve noticed the last couple of years, just the increase in accidents alone, it’s pretty scary. There’s always an accident somewhere in the last year, and it’s been it’s getting worse.”

Jeff Orr and Travis McDougall co-founded “Truckers for Safer Highways.” To date, their petition has received 858 signatures.

Orr notes that in addition to the accidents he sees personally while he is out on the highways, he sees increasing numbers shared on Social Media: “In my newsfeed on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites…it’s everyday.”

In addition to devastating and avoidable accidents, Orr says he regularly sees things that simply defy common sense for a professional driver:

“I see people doing things that no one would have done in the past, for example, pulling over on a soft shoulder and getting stuck. I see that all the time in northern Ontario. No kidding! I just don’t understand it; I guess nobody tells them, and they don’t know what they don’t know.”

Like others concerned with highway safety, Orr is very interested in the so-called “Fake Driving Schools” investigation announced by the OPP and the Surete de Quebec last spring. On May 18th, Quebec’s Economic Crimes Investigation Service, in collaboration with the OPP, arrested 6 individuals from Montreal, Laval and Brampton, Ontario in connection with the production and the use of false documents. The documents allowed foreign clients to obtain driver’s licenses, including licenses to drive heavy goods vehicles.

“The suspects allowed their foreign clients to obtain a class 5 (passenger vehicle) and possibly a class 1 (heavy goods vehicle) driver’s license from the SAAQ, using falsified documents,” this OPP release reads.

“Another scheme that was uncovered involved individuals operating unlicensed schools and delivering unauthorized training to students in Ontario and Quebec.

“The following six individuals have been charged with Fraud Over $5000, contrary to section 380(1) of the Criminal Code:

Gurvinder Singh, 55, of Laval, Que.;

Gurpreet Singh, 33, of Saint Eustache, Que.;

Mohammad Khokhar, 66, of Cornwall, Ont.;

Jagjeet Deol, 50, of Caledon;

Charanjit Kaur Deol, 50, of Caledon; and

Hanifa Khokhar, 68, of Cornwall, Ont., were charged with fraud over $5,000.

“The focus of this lengthy investigation has been public safety,” said Det.-insp. Daniel Nadeau with the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch. “Tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles can be deadly in the hands of those with little or unapproved training.”

On July 19th, OPP media relations person Bill Dickson updated RWN in an email, “There is no new information at this time. All of the accused persons are before the courts.”