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Truck driver has long history of violations

He got caught at N.C. crossing and was struck by Amtrak train.

The driver of an oversize load that was struck by an Amtrak train is a convicted felon who nonetheless has a valid commercial driver's license.
The driver of an oversize load that was struck by an Amtrak train is a convicted felon who nonetheless has a valid commercial driver's license.Read moreCHRIS SEWARD / News & Observer

RALEIGH, N.C. - The truck driver whose failure to maneuver an oversize rig through a railroad crossing derailed an Amtrak train and injured 55 people this week is a convicted felon with a long history of traffic citations, court records show.

John Devin Black, 43, has been cited for at least a dozen traffic violations, including speeding and driving with a revoked license multiple times, according to records reviewed and confirmed by the Associated Press.

In Illinois, Black was arrested in December 2012 and charged with exceeding the permitted weight limit on his load. He was quickly released on a $177 secured bond, but then failed to appear in court the following month.

Black also served prison time in 1997 after being convicted of felony child abuse in North Carolina, and his other criminal convictions include assaulting a woman, violating a domestic violence protective order, and repeatedly writing worthless checks.

Black does have a valid commercial driver's license, but did not need to pass a criminal-background check to get it, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles confirmed Wednesday.

No charges have been filed against Black in relation Monday's crash, though law enforcement officials say that is still under consideration.

An Associated Press reporter walked past the no-trespassing sign on the front porch of Black's home in the rural community of Claremont, N.C., and knocked on the door seeking comment.

Black didn't answer, but shortly after the reporter left a note and a phone number, a spokeswoman for his employer, Guy M. Turner Inc. of Greensboro, called.

Asked about Black's driving record and the accident, company spokeswoman Jeanette Landreth declined to comment, and said Black won't talk either. Turner specializes in moving heavy equipment.

Before Monday's crash, its 161 trucks were involved in 13 significant highway crashes over the last two years, resulting in nine injuries. Turner has a "satisfactory" safety rating, according to U.S. Department of Transportation records.

As workers finished clearing debris from the derailment site in Halifax, N.C., investigators were piecing together why railroad dispatchers apparently weren't told that Black was struggling to negotiate a tight turn across the tracks with a load nearly 16 feet wide and tall, weighing 127 tons and stretching for 164 feet.