Thousands of truckers caught driving on Georgia roads with suspended licenses

Thousands of truckers caught driving on Georgia roads with suspended licenses

A Channel 2 Action News investigation uncovered a staggering number of truckers cited for driving on Georgia roads with a suspended license.

There are volumes of laws and safety regulations the trucking industry must follow. Maybe the most basic: truckers need to have a valid commercial driver license.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant started digging into Georgia State Patrol crash reports after a local father called him about a recent crash involving his teenage son.

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"I remember just being in shock,” Xander Thiel said.

A reasonable reaction for a teenager whose pickup got totaled in a tractor-trailer crash.

"I was just frantic at that point," Thiel told Diamant.

In February, Thiel's big Dodge Ram slammed into a semitruck on I-75 in Cobb County.

"This should not have happened."

The state patrol's report said the trucker improperly changed lanes in front of him, a sudden swerve that sparked a chain reaction crash with two other cars.

"I didn't see anything coming," Thiel said.

The wreck left Thiel banged up, in pain, but alive. He faces months of rehab.

But even more frustrating for him and his mom -- Georgia State Patrol cited the trucker for driving on a suspended license.

"Accidents happen, you know? That's alright, but this should not have happened. A suspended license? He should not have been on the road," Michelle Thiel, Xander’s mother, told Diamant.

Georgia State Patrol records Diamant got through an open records request show between 2013 and 2016, the agency cited 2,486 people for driving on a suspended commercial driver’s license.

"I think that's ridiculous," Xander Thiel said.

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It's a number that even surprised GSP motor carrier compliance Lt. Jonathan Mouchet.

"That seemed a little high," Mouchet said.

Those are only the ones who got caught during an inspection, a traffic stop or after a crash.

"That's the kind of thing you really want to make sure we're getting off the road."

"If they are caught driving on a suspended license, you know, they will be placed out of service and could be held accountable," Mouchet said.

But even with stepped-up inspections, the consequences can be catastrophic.

A horrific 2014 crash in Toombs County killed two sisters. A logging truck crossed the center line and hit their car head-on. The trucker, driving on a suspended CDL, tested positive for pot and cocaine. He got 30 years in prison.

Nearly 70 percent of the suspended CDL's the State Patrol discovered over those three years were issued in Georgia.

When Diamant talked with Georgia Motor Trucking Association President Ed Crowell, he was emphatic.

"The majority of those suspended licenses were paperwork problems," Crowell told Diamant.

He said federal regulations recently changed and now require all truckers’ CDLs and medical cards to have the same issue and expiration dates.

"So it resulted in hundreds and hundreds of guys being officially suspended, because their medical cards and their CDL didn't match," Crowell said.

Crowell doesn't believe that automatically makes those drivers unsafe.

He told Diamant he's more concerned with the nearly 1,500 truckers GSP cited over that same time for having no CDL at all.

"That's the kind of thing you really want to make sure we're getting off the road,” Crowell said.

For Xander Thiel, it only amplifies his anxiety over who's behind the wheel of all those big rigs on the road with him.

"It's terrifying. You could kill someone, just straight up,” he said.

Keep in mind, the numbers we uncovered are only for GSP. They do not include truckers who get cited by the hundreds of local sheriff and police departments in Georgia.

"It's terrifying. You could kill someone, just straight up."

While these numbers pale in comparison to the number of regular Georgians driving cars on suspended licenses, even the trucking association warns that when you're behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound big rig, the stakes are objectively higher.