The provincial government is keeping secret DriveTest Centre performance reports conducted by the private company that examines all new drivers, including tractor-trailer licence seekers.
Under its 10-year contract with the Ministry of Transportation, Serco, the multinational corporation that operates as DriveTest, has had the power since last year to “self audit” and “self report” any violations of provincial testing standards.
This confidential system of self policing, approved by the provincial government, means the public has no easy way to learn if Serco is properly testing all new driver candidates or if contractual requirements are being met.
An ongoing Star investigation found that the province’s truck-driver licensing centre in Woodbridge, operated by Serco, was violating ministry standards by not testing tractor-trailer candidates on expressways or roads with speed limits of 80 km/h or higher. Serco has told the Star that all Woodbridge test routes had ministry approval.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca has since ordered a review of road test standards at the centre, the province’s only exclusive testing facility for trucks, to ensure provincial guidelines are being followed. The review is expected to be complete by year’s end. When the Star looked into issues of oversight with Serco, it discovered Serco has the right to police itself.
Serco began auditing itself when the company renewed its contract with the province on Sept. 1, 2013. The Star asked the province for copies of Serco’s self-audit reports, as well as the ministry’s reviews from the last five years, but was told it would have to file a request under freedom of information legislation to obtain them.
The Star also asked Serco for a list of compliance issues identified in the past five years, but the company would not provide any information. Instead, Serco spokeswoman Angela O’Regan said that any specific details and associated penalties “are reported to MTO in accordance with the provisions of the contract.”
Ajay Woozageer, a transportation ministry spokesperson, told the Star in an email the province’s contract with Serco allows the company to “self-audit and self-report their level of compliance to the ministry each month” to encourage accountability.
“This process is consistent with other public private partnerships and places more accountability on the service provider for oversight of their business operations,” Woozageer stated.
The Star asked the ministry for examples of other public-private partnerships in which the service provider self audited and self reported violations, but was not provided with any.
Woozageer said the ministry “continues to maintain a robust audit and oversight regime that is used to validate (Serco’s) reported level of compliance through onsite audits, as well as audits of DriveTest transactions and monitoring systems.” He said MTO inspectors “continue to visit DriveTest locations” once a month, on average.
The ministry would not tell the Star how many MTO inspectors are involved in overseeing Serco’s operations.
In addition, Woozageer said KPMG performs an annual audit of Serco’s “processes and procedures,” but said the public cannot access these reports without filing a freedom of information request.
The agreement between the province and Serco is available online but is heavily censored, with entire pages deleted from public view. One such deleted page was headlined “Customer Satisfaction Survey.”
Details of performance benchmarks to be met by Serco, along with financial information about testing, are redacted from the agreement.
The Star’s investigation also found that would-be tractor-trailer drivers require no formal instruction to obtain their licence. Of those who do seek instruction, many students take their training at cut-rate, unregulated schools that simply teach to the test. The Star found two dozen of these schools in the GTA operating by taking advantage of a provincial loophole that allows them to avoid provincial oversight by charging less than $1,000 for a course.
In response to the Star’s findings, Transportation Minister Del Duca called for mandatory entry-level training for truck drivers. The province has not said when such training would be implemented.