In the Fight Against Human Trafficking, Why Truckers?

human trfficking awareness

WHEN WORKING ON a strategy to fight human trafficking, one of the first steps should be to determine which groups of people have the greatest opportunity to spot human trafficking as it is happening. In other words, who could serve as the primary surveillance?

When it comes to this crime, those front-line people include such groups as medical personnel, which treat victims in medical clinics; service personnel in local neighborhoods (such as postal workers, and cable, electrical, and water providers) who come by homes regularly and would notice if something unusual was going on; restaurant and hotel personnel, who might see trafficking taking place in their establishments; and members of all segments of the transportation industry, including airport employees, because traffickers are continually transporting victims to sell them in a variety of places.

Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) began as an initiative of Chapter 61 Ministries in 2009 to work with the trucking industry because it’s 7-million strong. Truckers are trained to be highly observant. The trucking industry is composed of people already entrusted with caring for other people’s goods, which speaks to the character of the industry when it comes to caring for others—especially when the interest of others might be in trouble. Members of the trucking industry are everywhere, covering the entire United States. Lastly, traffickers wanting to make fast money often target truckers at truck stops and rest areas (because they’re everywhere and easy to reach right along highways) to sell their victims. This is evidenced by the number of victims rescued from truck stops by the FBI.

The members of Chapter 61 Ministries believed that if the trucking industry were empowered with education and equipped with tools to fight human trafficking, they would quickly mobilize against this crime. They could do their part to see victims recovered and perpetrators arrested. Members of the trucking industry could be everyday heroes in their jobs and make a significant impact against the criminal activity of human trafficking. Perhaps they might even have a more substantial impact than the average person because of their mobility and training. They are a critical front-line group to recruit.

Using tools, including informational website such as TruckersAgainstTrafficking.org, on-demand webinars, a trucking-industry-specific training DVD, wallet cards with signs to look for and questions to ask, and social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter), TAT began making contacts throughout the trucking industry to build relationships and state the case for trucking members to join the abolitionist movement. TAT also started having a presence at major trucking shows and providing free presentations wherever requested by members of the trucking industry. The trucking industry began responding positively. By 2011, TAT had grown so much and was making such an impact in the industry that it needed to become an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization to sustain its efforts.

Members of the trucking industry, who had witnessed the prostitution of women and minors at various places throughout the U.S. for years but who had not known what it was—forced prostitution and modern-day slavery—began calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline to report what they were seeing. Since Dec. 7, 2007, when the hotline started, the national hotline has received 2,782+ calls from truckers, which have opened 715 likely cases of human trafficking involving 1,303 people.

Major travel plaza and truckstop organizations joined TAT by committing to train their employees with TAT materials and to make those materials available for trucking customers across the nation. Truck-driving schools, national and state trucking organizations, trucking companies—both large and small—individual truckers, trucking organizations of all types, and trucking media have joined forces with TAT.

TAT works to create relationships between state and federal law enforcement and trucking industry members through half-day events called coalition builds. These events provide a more effective localized response to human trafficking by gathering law enforcement agencies (state, federal and local) and local anti-trafficking resources (task forces and local non-governmental organizations) in the same room with key industry stakeholders, including general managers of truck stops and representatives of state trucking associations and carriers.

Using TAT materials, the Motor Vehicle Enforcement division of the Iowa Department of Transportation has created a model for other states to follow in working with the trucking industry. They place TAT materials in their state scale sites, state rest areas, and state truck stops. They are also working with major carriers in the state to train their employees with TAT materials.

TIA has also joined the fight against human trafficking. In 2021, TIA became a Gold Level TAT sponsor, hosted a Lunch & Learn webinar to inform members how to fight human trafficking, and invited TAT to participate in the 3PLXTEND Conference in San Antonio, presenting to attendees on the intersection of human trafficking with the transportation industry. TIA also added the TAT certificate program to their membership portal LMS and actively encouraged members to train their companies with TAT materials.

Laura Cyrus, TAT Director of Corporate Engagement, shared, “3PLs have an amazing opportunity to spread awareness about the issue of human trafficking and the training TAT offers to the thousands of carriers they work with. In addition to getting trained themselves, 3PLs can host TAT on virtual learning opportunities, podcast interviews, utilize the TAT social media toolkit to build out their social content, and include information about TAT and human trafficking, such as sharing about TAT on rate confirmation sheets, holding office fundraisers to support TAT’s work, etc.”

Why truckers? Watching the TAT training DVD readily answers that question. With one phone call, a trucker who saw some under-aged girls working a truck stop facilitated the recovery of those girls and that of seven other minors. Thirty-one offenders were arrested, and a 13-state prostitution ring was broken.

Training and working with front-line responders in the U.S. in the fight against human trafficking is a strategy that can and does yield significant results … and members of the trucking industry are some of the leading front-line responders.

To learn more about how your organization can get involved in the fight against trafficking, contact Laura Cyrus, TAT Director of Corporate Engagement, at lcyrus@truckersagainsttrafficking.org.

Image credits: ROA_AIRBORNE/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM