In the latest lapse at the state Registry of Motor Vehicles, the agency has fired four employees after determining 2,100 drivers received licenses without taking road tests, a fundamental rite of passage and safety precaution for all first-time drivers.
The omission came to light recently when drivers who acquired licenses through the Brockton Customer Service Center began receiving letters from the registry, informing them their license would be suspended unless they took a road test within 10 days. But the problem apparently dated back to 2018, the agency said.
“Upon discovering suspicious activity regarding the issuance of road tests in 2020, the Registry of Motor Vehicles launched an investigation and referred the issue to law enforcement,” Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Transportation, said in a statement. “The RMV has terminated four employees involved in this matter and will continue to work with law enforcement on their ongoing investigation.”
Goddard declined to answer any questions, so it was not clear why the lapse wasn’t made public earlier, what agency is investigating the matter, or why untested drivers were given licenses.
Representative William Straus, the House chair of the Legislature’s transportation committee, said he received a call from the secretary of transportation’s office about 10 days ago, saying officials were investigating the lack of road tests. He learned the four employees had been fired from news reports Wednesday.
“It is of great concern that there are what I believe are now former registry employees who were able without oversight to engage in this apparent scheme,” he said.
MassDOT officials said a supervisor noticed suspicious activity in 2020 on accounts of some customers who received licenses at the Brockton center, but it was not clear exactly how the RMV discovered it had issued licenses to untested drivers. The RMV reported the matter to law enforcement and later determined that starting in April 2018, about 2,100 customers received passing scores by two road test examiners at the Brockton location without actually taking the test. Two test examiners and two service center workers at the location were fired, according to the department. The fired employees weren’t named.
The affected drivers must now pass a road test, the department said.
A driving school instructor in Brockton said that the 10-day window to take the test is too small considering how many people were affected.
“They’re already backlogged and they’re demanding this happen even though it was their fault,” said Alicia Tantillo, co-owner of Champion Driving School in Brockton, of the RMV.
Tantillo said none of her students appear to have been affected. “I haven’t heard from my students and I’d assume I would if they got a letter,” she said.
MassDOT said advocacy groups that work with members of communities who may have been affected, including those who may not be fluent in English, have agreed to help people through the steps to get a valid license.
The road tests will be free. Anyone who fails a test will be reissued a learner’s permit and will also be offered a Massachusetts ID card, free of charge, according to MassDOT.
All first-time drivers in Massachusetts are required to pass a learner’s permit exam and a road test before getting a driver’s license, according to the state’s website. Applicants under the age of 18 are required to complete a driver education program and have a clean driving record for six consecutive months with a learner’s permit, plus additional requirements, before taking a road test, according to the website.
The ages of the drivers affected by the RMV’s error were not made public Wednesday.
The road test snafu is the latest embarrassment for the RMV, after prior lapses were documented in a 2020 Boston Globe Spotlight Team investigation dubbed “Blind Spot” that won a Pulitzer Prize.
The genesis of the series was the devastating crash in June 2019 in which a truck driven by Volodymyr Zhukovskyy killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire. The Globe reported that Zhukovskyy’s license should have been suspended weeks prior to the accident, but the RMV had failed to open its mail and act on a warning notice from another state.
That initial investigation prompted a deeper dive into state motor vehicle agencies nationwide, with the team finding that those agencies were buried under paperwork and unable to monitor troubled drivers. Reporters also delved into the trucking industry, unearthing repeated regulatory failures, deadly crashes, and unanswered calls for change.