Mhlnews 7294 Truck Driver Stop Human Trafficking 0

Truckers Can Help Stop Human Trafficking

Sept. 8, 2016
Shippers and truckers alike are part of the solution to put an end to human trafficking.

"I was up in Denver, at a truck stop, and there was a young girl, and she was running around. She had one shoe and her clothes were kind of ratted up, but she was trying to make money so she could feed her little brother," Ryan Doyle, an over-the-road trucker with Doyle Transportation LLC, recently told the Topeka Capital-Journal. "It’s a sad deal."

While this might sound like the case of a child prostitute, there is in fact no such thing. Anyone under the age of 18 being sold for commercial sex is in fact a victim of sex trafficking. To get an idea of how widespread the problem is there are 21 million people who are trafficked globally. And it’s a big business—$32 billion in profits.

To combat this crime an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) is creating awareness of the problem. "There are more truck drivers on the road than there are law enforcement personnel," explains Kendis Paris, executive director of TAT ( "Truckers are the eyes and the ears of the nation’s highways."

And these eyes might already be seeing what they thought were suspicious situations, but didn’t know what to do about it. TAT offers trucking companies a free and simple training program, which includes a video explaining how to spot potential trafficking, and wallet cards with the national hotline number: 888-373-7888. Calling the hotline rather than the police is very important.

"The hotline is staffed with trained personnel who know which questions to ask the caller so that they can assess the situation and then let truckers know what precise information is needed in order to provide enforcement authorities with correct data," says Paris.

Training is essential, as truckload carrier Heartland Express found out. The trucking company is a sponsor of TAT. Julie Durr, who is in charge of the program for Heartland, explained that after training, "we had one driver call the hotline and within three minutes Homeland Security contacted him to ask about what he saw. Our company now makes it mandatory that every trucker views the video before they are put out on the road."

Heartland has also hosted The Freedom Drivers Project, which is a mobile exhibit that consists of a theatre, actual artifacts from trafficking cases, and portraits of the truckers who are working to end human trafficking.

These educational efforts are paying off as TAT has recruited nearly 250,000 truck drivers. Before TAT existed, only sporadic tips were being reported by the trucking industry, but now they have made nearly 1,400 calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, generating 425 cases of sex trafficking involving 744 victims, 249 of those being minors.

In addition to law enforcement the group is reaching out to the supply chain. The Shipping Partners Program seeks to engage major purchasers of transportation services to encourage their carriers to include TAT materials as a regular part of training and orientation.

Drivers aren’t the only ones who should be involved in stopping these tragic crimes. A case in point happened to me recently as I was on my way to a jazz festival and met a friend at a gas station so we could ride together. As he parked his car he pointed out to me a young woman, sitting near the parking lot on the grass, and he commented that she might be a prostitute. But after learning about TAT I now view the situation quite differently and told my friend that she may be a victim of human trafficking. We did look around to see if there was a suspicious car nearby which would be her "pimp," as is the procedure to determine if this could be a case of trafficking. We didn’t see one and so there wasn’t much we could do. As she looked over 18, we didn’t approach her but I now regret not doing so.

What I should have done is to call the TAT national hotline. I won’t make that mistake again.

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