THE INVESTIGATORS: Truck driving experts condemn alleged action of OMV employee accused of selling illegal licenses
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Reggie James Jr. is out on bond, days after being arrested on three felony charges for allegedly selling six people commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) right out of the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV).
According to the arrest report, the state employee sold six licenses at $800 a license to folks who either did not take or did not pass their driving test.
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“They’re just disregarding public safety,” said Jason Salter. “That’s the bottom line of it. It’s extremely dangerous when you have a vehicle that weighs in excess of 40,000 to 80,000 pounds and if you don’t know the proper way of operating a vehicle, you can obviously hurt yourself and other people.”
Salter is the campus director at Diesel Driving Academy on Airline Highway. He says everyday men and women are hard at work here training to get their CDL.
“We average about 80 to 100 students here every day. I would say in a year we probably graduate about 200,” said Salter.
He tells WAFB their main focus is safety and getting those future truck drivers ready to hit the road across Louisiana. Their students go through a rigorous program, completing 600 hours of classroom and behind-the-wheel training before they qualify for the license.
“It’s 20 weeks of training during the day and if you come at night, it’s 30 weeks of training and so you have a classroom portion, you have a range of backing pad portion and then we take you on the road as well,” said Salter.
New guidelines approved by the federal government now require students to go to an accredited school for training before they can even apply for a license. Those new rules were given the green light in February. That is the same month Louisiana State Police investigators say James started selling illegal CDLs to folks right out of the OMV.
“I do understand that since it made it tougher, that’s probably why someone tried to circumvent the rules but that’s the reason why those rules are in place because it’s so important that you get that training before you go out onto our roads,” said Salter.
Police say James sold one of those licenses for $1,300 in cash to a man who had already failed his test several times at other OMV locations.
“When you take the test and fail it, you know that you’re not ready,” Salter added. “That’s telling you right there and for someone to issue it, that can be scary.”
“Yeah it could be a dangerous situation,” said Sgt. Dustin Dwight with LSP. “You have a person that essentially didn’t meet the qualifications to drive a commercial motor vehicle, which in some cases could be a vehicle up to 80,000 pounds.”
State police tell WAFB the folks at the OMV discovered the alleged wrongdoing through an internal audit and passed the information on to their investigators. Now that James has been arrested, it’s unclear if he worked alone or if anyone else could have helped. That is part of the investigation.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Dwight if there was any indication that maybe James worked with someone else to do the alleged crime.
“I think that our investigators are going to look at every available aspect of this crime and make sure that it doesn’t continue to happen make sure that everybody that was involved is held accountable,” said Dwight.
Leaders at the OMV say they have already identified those drivers and have asked them to get in touch with the agency. If not, those licenses will be suspended.
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