Missing birth certificate leaves trucker's perfect record on roadside

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 3/2/2007

James Calloway understands that truckers are required by the federal government to submit to and pass background checks before being issued hazmat endorsements for their commercial driver's licenses.

But Calloway was stunned when the U.S. Department of Transportation announced last week that a pilot program would allow 100 Mexican motor carriers to bring Mexican truckers into the U.S. without a U.S.-issued license.

"They're not going to have to have a CDL license but we have to?" Calloway said. "That's not fair."

Until September 2006, the 71-year-old Calloway had hauled chemical loads across Houston for years while working for USF Bestway, which is based in Portland, OR.

Knowing that his CDL was scheduled to expire in September, Calloway tried to renew the license in July 2006, but was surprised to learn he needed to show a copy of the birth certificate issued by the state of Louisiana to his parents in 1935.

"I've had a (CDL) for over 40 years," Calloway said, adding that he's never had an accident.

Because Calloway has no copy of his birth certificate, he parked his truck in September when he started trying to obtain a copy of his birth certificate – he's been out of work ever since.

Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Public Health in New Orleans hasn't been able to come up with the birth certificate in nearly five months and officials blamed Hurricane Katrina for a logjam of personal record requests, Calloway said.

Though the layoff has hurt his bottom line, Calloway said he has been able to spend more time with his family.

"They call me 'honeydo' now," Calloway said, with a laugh.

Still, Calloway said he'd rather be on the road, afforded the same rights in his country as drivers from neighboring countries.

"I know the government knows who I am," he said. "I've been on the books too long."

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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