CDL fraud means 2,000 truckers must retest

Posted at 7:19 PM, Dec 31, 2015
and last updated 2016-01-01 00:00:30-05

The clock is ticking for about 2,000 Florida commercial truck drivers who have a little more than two weeks to retake and pass their driving tests or lose their commercial driver's licenses.

 Truck drivers sometimes have to update their licenses and pass new tests to take on new jobs or comply with changes in regulations.

 That's what happened with drivers in Tampa, who took a course and passed a driving test years ago to upgrade from Class “B” licenses to Class “A” licenses.

 But they recently got a letter saying that their new certification doesn't count.

 "This is the castle we had in Edward Scissorhands,” said Steve Valdez, pointing out one of his many photos.

 “These were fast and furious, all the actors,” he said, showing another.

 Valdez has worked as a commercial driver for the motion picture industry for decades, hauling everything from production equipment to movie stars' trailers for more than 80 feature films.

 “This will be my 50th year as a Teamster,” he said.

 But the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is now threatening to cancel his  and nearly 2,000 other drivers' commercial driver licenses.

 They have until January 19th to take and pass the same commercial driving tests they have already passed again.

 “We lose the license, we lose our jobs,” said Valdez.

 What’s behind it is a a federal fraud investigation involving an Orlando-area trucking school.

 Owner Ellariy Medvednik and several co-conspirators plead guilty to fraudulently obtaining CDLs for drivers who only spoke Russian.

 The examiner who admitted passing many of those drivers who failed their driving tests in exchange for cash was the same person who tested Valdez and others in Tampa three years ago.

 “He was a tester who travelled. So he went to schools in Tampa, schools in Orlando,” said Valdez.

 Valdez now has to brush up on his coursework to retake his driving test again next week at a cost of $300.

 “You're hearing something like this and it's like holy cow. I can't believe I'm being treated this way,” he said. “And I'm basically accused of being a criminal.”

  A spokesperson from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said "There will be some drivers unfairly affected by this, but we are requiring drivers to be retested as an overabundance of caution."

 Valdez, who has never had an accident, wishes the state had reviewed his excellent driving record instead of threatening his livelihood.

 “We're being put through the ringer over this and all because somebody else is a crook,” he said.

 The certified testers who offer those CDL tests say there is currently a backlog, because so many drivers are affected.

 The state is working with those drivers who have special circumstances and may offer an extension in certain cases. If you received one of the letters, you can find out more by calling (850) 617-2707.

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