When fighting human trafficking, one of the first steps is to reach out to groups of people who can spot it when it happens. Truckers are one of those front-line groups.
Human trafficking is the illegal transport of people, usually those who’ve been forced into labor or prostitution against their will. Traffickers who want to make fast money often target truckers at truck stops and rest areas to sell their victims. Truckers report the suspicious behavior to law enforcement, and many victims have been rescued from truck stops as a result.
Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) was started by Chapter 61 Ministries in 2009 to recruit truckers in this ongoing rescue effort. Truckers are well suited to this effort. There are millions of professional truck drivers, all are trained to be extremely observant, and it is their job to be entrusted with other people’s property. That speaks to the character of the industry: Truckers care for others.
Members of the trucking industry, who had witnessed the forced prostitution and modern-day slavery of women and minors at various places throughout the United States, started reporting to a hotline at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC.) Since 2009, when Truckers Against Trafficking began actively recruiting truckers, the hotline reported that calls from truckers increased substantially. As of March 31, 2016, truckers have made 1,371 calls, to report 425 likely cases of trafficking involving 744 victims. Of those 744 victims, at least 249 of them were minors.
With one phone call, a trucker reported that under-aged girls were working a truck stop. That phone call led to the recovery of those girls, plus seven more minors. The lead provided important information that led to the arrest of 31 offenders, and broke up a 13-state child sex trafficking ring, preventing future tragedies.
4 Reasons to Fight Human Trafficking
1. Moral – Human trafficking denies freedom to thousands of Americans, and exploits, oppresses, and abuses those who are often least able to fight for themselves.
2. Opportunity – Truckers park at truck stops and travel plazas, which are the very locations where traffickers attempt to sell victims. Truckers often have unique opportunities to observe and report these crimes.
3. Business risks – If truckers see or suspect criminal activity but do not report it, that inaction can lead to risks for their companies, possibly including legal action and impounded loads.
4. Financial – If loads are impounded, the trucking company suffers financially, due to lost revenue and potential legal fees.
How Can You Help?
If you’re a trucking company or a shipper, train your company drivers and employees. TAT training materials are available for free. Once you’ve trained your drivers and employees, go on our website and register them as TAT Trained. Registration takes two minutes or less. If you’re a shipper, talk to your trucking company partners about human trafficking, and urge them to train their employees. Change your RFPs to include TAT training as a condition for hiring. When shippers ask us how to know which companies are TAT trained, we point them to the growing list of TAT-trained trucking companies on our website.
Using TAT materials, the Motor Vehicle Enforcement division of the Iowa Department of Transportation has created a model for other states to follow with the trucking industry. They place TAT materials in their state scale sites, state rest areas, and state truck stops. The Iowa DOT is also working with major carriers in the state, to train their employees with TAT materials. Ohio has become the first U.S. state to incorporate TAT training as part of their CDL licensing, beginning in July 2016.
Continue to talk to everyone in your sphere of influence about human trafficking and what the trucking industry is doing to fight it … your neighbors, church, community, family. Your actions can rescue or prevent vulnerable children from becoming victims of human trafficking, and you can influence others to become involved in this effort.
Kylla Lanier is Deputy Director of Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that educates, equips, empowers and mobilizes members of the trucking and travel plaza industry to combat domestic sex trafficking. For more information, visit truckersagainsttrafficking.org.