By Bob Faw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/11/2007 7:28:51 PM ET 2007-04-11T23:28:51

Big rigs can be deadly — 500 people killed and 114,000 injured in truck crashes in 2005 alone.

And last month, outside Washington, D.C., 33-year-old Jose Portillo Villalto was killed — crushed when his Honda Accord was rammed by a tractor-trailer, driven by Roger Scofield.

"He wasn't supposed to be driving," said Villalto's cousin Freddy Portillo. "And he had a suspended license."

Not only suspended, but as the Washington Post reported Monday, the truck driver had traffic citations in seven different states, with convictions for two of them, for speeding and reckless driving. In all, 56 violations — his license suspended seven times in Delaware alone.

There ought to be a law, and there is. States are required to report violations to the federal government, which is supposed to assemble and share that data so unlicensed truckers don't end up on the road.

But critics of the trucking industry contend that "several thousand" truckers are now driving with suspect or bogus licenses because states don't report violations quickly or fully, and, in the conclusion of two U.S. watchdog agencies, that the federal government is also to blame.

"It's not telling the states they need to clean up their act, and they're not going out into the field and doing enough oversight investigations of each states' programs," said Jerry Donaldson, an advocate for highway and auto safety.

Now, according to the American trucking association, the vast majority of truckers are "safe, well-trained and properly licensed," and that fatalities involving truckers are at "record lows."

That's small consolation for victims' relatives.

"They shouldn't be driving the way they do, it's just really bad," Freddy Portillo said.

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