The private company hired by the province to conduct all driving exams — sharing in revenue of $800 million over 10 years — was failing to properly road test tractor-trailer drivers, a government review has found.
The failures were detected at Ontario’s largest commercial truck testing centre in Woodbridge, north of Toronto, where students attempt to earn their AZ licence to become tractor-trailer drivers.
The review, ordered by Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, came in response to an ongoing Toronto Star investigation that found truck drivers were earning their licences at the Woodbridge DriveTest location without being taken on a 400-series expressway, despite the exam centre’s close proximity to Highways 427 and 407.
The problem has been corrected and new drivers will be tested on expressways.
“The safety of our roads is my top priority and is always our primary consideration when making decisions about Ontario’s roads,” said Del Duca in an emailed statement to the Star.
An 11-page Ministry of Transportation report released this week found that three test routes used by Serco, the private multi-national company contracted by the province in 2013 to operate all DriveTest locations until 2023, did not comply with ministry requirements that learners be tested on roads with a minimum speed limit of 80 km/h. The report did not specify how long the incorrect road test routes had been used.
In addition, red flags were raised over nearly one-third of the 164 truck road test routes in Ontario being scrutinized for compliance. Those specific red flag concerns were not detailed in the report.
The minister said he ordered the review after his ministry became aware in September that “moderate changes” to speed limits affected the Woodbridge DriveTest Centre’s truck road test routes.
The report states that as of Dec. 1, the Woodbridge DriveTest centre’s truck road test routes were modified to include an expressway component and that by Dec. 16, all truck road test routes now in use (including most of the ones that raised red flags) met ministry standards and policy requirements.
The report makes seven recommendations, including having ministry inspectors “physically drive a sample of these routes each month,” and by the end of 2015, track road test routes using GPS-enabled tablets. The review also called for the ministry to “enforce the contract and apply penalties were appropriate” for non-compliance.
Serco will face no penalties, the report says, because the company “took immediate action to modify the truck road test routes to be compliant with ministry standards and policy requirements.”
“We will continue to work openly with the ministry throughout their monthly oversight and compliance monitoring regime, and we will advise the ministry immediately of any road test route non-compliance, and swiftly take action to bring the road test route into compliance as soon as possible,” said Serco spokeswoman Angela O’Regan in response to the report.
The report states that Serco and its parent corporation, Plenary Group, reviewed all 164 truck road test routes and reported the findings to the Ministry of Transportation. The ministry then conducted a review of the submissions to “ensure compliance with ministry standards and policy requirements.”
Del Duca also reiterated his pledge to introduce mandatory entry-level training for commercial truck drivers. The Star’s ongoing investigation of Ontario’s truck driver training industry revealed in October that the province requires no formal truck training for those seeking a licence to drive a tractor-trailer.
“I look forward to working with industry partners to develop mandatory entry-level commercial training for truck drivers,” Del Duca said. “This will lead to even stronger enhancements to truck driver testing in Ontario.”
In the summer of 2013, Plenary Group and Serco, working as a consortium, announced its 10-year contract to provide driver examination services for the province would generate an estimated $800 million in shared revenue over the term of the deal.”
Heavily censored documents released to the Star do not indicate how much of Plenary and Serco will earn from the deal.