Suspended Winnipeg truck driver training company failed to act with 'honesty and integrity': MPI
Manitoba Public Insurance audited five Class 1 licence training schools, but sanctioned only one
A Winnipeg truck driving school was given the longest training suspension in Manitoba Public Insurance's recent history, after the Crown corporation found the school was using an unauthorized instructor and an unauthorized truck, and had failed "to act with honesty and integrity."
Longview Driving School was one of five schools offering training to obtain a Class 1 licence — which allows drivers to operate semi-trailer trucks — that were audited last year.
Longview was handed a five-year suspension by Manitoba Public Insurance, effective November 2018.
"MPI called me and told me 'your licence is suspended,' and I'm, like — wow," said Jitender Singh Dhalan, who was a part owner of Longview and a permitted driving instructor.
"I know I did mistakes," he said. "I do regret these things."
- Do you have a tip about the truck driving industry you want to share? Email us.
The company has since been dissolved, but Dhalan is now working as an instructor with a different driver training company in Winnipeg, Blue Bird Class 1 Training Centre Ltd.
Manitoba Public Insurance regulates driver training companies under the provincial Drivers and Vehicles Act, said MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley.
He would not specify what prompted the audit specifically of Longview or the other four schools, saying only that a tip came in.
'Last resort': MPI
Longview was the only school that was sanctioned, while "conversations" were had with the other four driving schools, said Smiley.
"Sanction was the last resort," he said.
"There's expectations on these driving schools. They are teaching people how to drive. They're also accepting money. They're a business. So there's expectations for them to be honest and acting with integrity."
MPI found Longview had committed eight violations:
- Allowed unauthorized instructor.
- Failure to act with honesty and integrity.
- Failure to maintain required records.
- Failure to properly equip/maintain vehicle.
- Failure to comply with conditions.
- Failure to comply with registrar's requirements.
- Failure to secure required permits.
- Provided instruction in non-approved vehicle.
Truck driver training courses were not a requirement for getting a Class 1 driver's licence in Manitoba until September 2019.
Along with other provinces, Manitoba made the training courses mandatory for new truck drivers in the wake of the April 2018 crash between a semi and the Humboldt Broncos' bus, which killed 16 people and injured 13 others aboard the Saskatchewan hockey team's bus.
There are 16 registered driving schools in Manitoba that are authorized by MPI to provide this training — including Blue Bird Training Centre.
Rush to get licences
Smiley said that in the first 11 months of this year, 3,853 drivers in Manitoba took their Class 1 road test. About 36 per cent passed the test.
Both Smiley and Dhalan said people began scrambling to get their Class 1 licences before the mandatory training requirement came into effect in Manitoba.
"[We] started getting busier and busier and busier," said Dhalan. "And we got a lot of students.… More busy that I can handle myself."
That led to Longview cutting corners to keep up with the demand, he said.
There's expectations on these driving schools. They are teaching people how to drive.- Brian Smiley, MPI
The company allowed someone without an instructor's permit to help train the students, Dhalan said. It also brought in another truck that wasn't approved to be used for training.
The situation led to a falling out with his business partners, Dhalan said.
"I told them we need to get the permit. And there was no permit."
Instructor moved to new school
After the suspension, Dhalan began instructing at Blue Bird Training Centre. Company records show the training centre was incorporated in November 2018 — the same month Longview was suspended.
Dhalan said his brother-in-law owns Blue Bird Training Centre. Company records show Dhalan and that same brother-in-law are listed as directors in two other companies — Blue Bird Transport Holdings and Blue Bird Transport Ltd.
Smiley said an owner of a driving school suspended by MPI would be prohibited from opening up another school.
However, the audit did not give MPI any cause to sanction Dhalan as an instructor, Smiley said.
"That individual was allowed to keep their driving instructor permit. So that tells me that that individual, by our evaluation, is able to continue on," Smiley said.
Trucking association backs enforcement
When asked how many students trained at Longview, Dhalan said he wasn't sure, but estimated about 200.
He said he's proud of his work as an instructor.
"When you come to me, you're going to learn," Dhalan said. "I want you to learn and to be a good driver."
The Manitoba Trucking Association says there's a need for enforcement of driving school regulations, especially in light of a shortage of truck drivers across North America.
"Regulations are only effective if there's oversight and enforcement," said association executive director Terry Shaw.
"So we absolutely encourage oversight and enforcement of any regulation, especially those when it comes to driver licensing or road safety."
Got a tip for CBC Manitoba's I-Team? Email or call the confidential tip line at 204-788-3744.