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Owner of Alabama truck driving school charged with bribery and wire fraud in alleged CDL scheme

Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The owner of an Alabama-based truck driving school has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud after authorities allege he bribed a commercial driver’s license (CDL) examiner to give his students “favorable treatment” during testing.

James F. Welburn, 72, of Columbus, Alabama, owner of the American Truck Driving Academy (ATDA)  in Lee County, Alabama, was arrested on July 25.

According to court documents, Welburn, who offered a three-week CDL course, would send his students across state lines into Muscogee County, Georgia, where he allegedly bribed a third-party examiner $25 per student to show ATDA students preferential treatment during testing.

In exchange for bribes, the examiner, known as “Michael J.” in the indictment, allegedly agreed to test students who had not possessed their learner’s permit for 14 days, as required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Court documents also claim the examiner would not test Welburn’s students on basic trucking maneuvers if they were unable to successfully perform them, resulting in some students obtaining their CDLs “despite not being qualified.”

The alleged scheme continued for more than three years, starting in February 2015 until April 2018.

If convicted, Welburn faces prison time, monetary penalties and restitution.

On July 29, an employee at ATDA told FreightWaves the trucking school is open for business and is currently accepting new students.


  1. Noble1


    “Certified Third-Party Tester (CTT) Program
    The Certified Third-Party Examiner/Tester (CTT) Program was developed to ensure the integrity, reliability and validity of the driver licensing process of third-party testers. To increase dedication to the principles of highway safety. To provide as administered by the jurisdiction or their approved contractor, the necessary level of training and professionalism to those third-party testers entrusted with the responsibility to administer jurisdictional licensing examinations.”

    Entrusted ? LOL !

    “Third Party Tester

    as defined in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Definitions
    U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
    Third party tester means a person (including, but not limited to, another State, a motor carrier, a private driver training facility or other private institution, or a department, agency or instrumentality of a local government) authorized by the State to employ skills test examiners to administer the CDL skills tests specified in subparts G and H of this part.”

    Houston WE HAVE A PROBLEM ! The whole trucking industry is flawed and corrupt galore !

    Bribery , deceit ,and conspiracy etc. just like within government , LOL !

    Both need to be restructured ASAP .

    In my humble opinion ………………


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Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected]