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Lawsuit reveals concerns with DPS standing drivers test appointments years ago

Updated: November 08, 2019 09:25 AM

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) said it started looking into driving test appointments last year as soon as concerns with how these coveted slots were being handed out were raised.

But 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS found court documents that show the state knew there were complaints about this practice more than five years ago.

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Bill Collins has owned and operated Interstate Truck Driving School in South St. Paul for decades.

He used to have 19 reserved testing slots that allowed him to get drivers in quickly for road tests. Now, he has none.

"I have asked for standing slots since then and they have refused to provide me with standing slots even though other truck driving schools still have them," Collins said.

He claims those slots were taken away from his business after he sued DPS in 2014. Collins challenged the state after they said he could not have cameras in his trucks during driving tests.

"These are public officials performing official duties in public, they have no right to privacy, I have every right to put those cameras in my trucks," he said.


More from KSTP.com: 

State gave coveted driving tests to schools trying to cash in on backlog

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Collins said the state used those testing slots as retaliation because they are the "lifeblood" for driving schools trying to navigate the state's overwhelmed testing system.

"It was retaliation. I'm one of those guys who stands up to authority when I feel authority is doing something wrong," he added.

After fighting the state in court for years, a jury found in 2018 he suffered damages for the loss of those standing appointments.

Last week, a state audit found that the practice of giving special treatment to certain driving schools was problematic and unfair.

"We know that practice needs to go away and it will go away starting January 1, 2020," said DVS Director Emma Corrie at a news conference on Saturday. But, Collins said it's something DPS could have fixed more than five years ago.

"It's hurt my business, pure and simple, it made things more frustrating, it is an ongoing dilemma that I have been facing," he said.

Collins said he now has a second business in Wisconsin, which he opened so his customers can get in quickly to take a test.

He said it's unfortunate because it's money that could be spent here in Minnesota.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to the DPS, but hadn't received a response prior to when this report initially aired Thursday. 

DPS then sent the following statement:

"This case was tried last year in district court and the plaintiff was unsuccessful. DVS policy at the time was that CDL truck driving schools were allotted up to 50 percent of CDL appointments. A new school requested appointments and that reduced the amount that was allotted to Interstate."

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Credits

Jessica Miles

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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