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Truckers increasingly the eyes and ears for signs of human trafficking


Welcomia | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 01/30/20

Those who move goods across the country are helping to deliver humans too—from lives of bondage.

Truckers across America deliver all kinds of products.

Now, many of them are helping to deliver people—from a life of bondage.

That’s thanks in part to an organization known as Truckers Against Trafficking. The Colorado-based nonprofit trains truck drivers and various other members of the transportation industry to recognize human trafficking and alert authorities to potential victims, according to NBC News. Since it was created in 2009, TAT has trained about 845,000 people in the transportation industry, over 700,000 of whom are truck drivers. That’s represents about 20% of the 3.5 million truck drivers who are employed in the U.S.

With all those eyes watching out in places like truck stops, it’s certain to make a difference in the growing problem of human trafficking.

But while those are impressive numbers, the statistics regarding trafficking are still quite discouraging. According to the International Labour Organization, there are more than 4.8 million people being sexually exploited worldwide, and more than a million of these are children. According to a recent report by the U.S. State Department, the United States is one of the leading consumers of sex trafficking, as well as leading country of origin for victims. Polaris, a nonprofit organization combating modern slavery, estimates that in 2018 alone, more than 10,000 cases were reported to its National Human Trafficking hotline, a majority of those being sex trafficking cases. More than 23,000 survivors, most of them female, were identified.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.

Truckers are in the right place to report signs of trafficking, since traffickers often exploit the transportation system to move their victims across the country. Criminals move in and out of various industries, including rest stops, hotels, motels and restaurants. So do truckers.

Kendis Paris co-founded TAT with her mother and sisters in 2009 with hopes of ending modern-day slavery and seeking justice for the vulnerable and exploited. Now executive director, she said that since the organization was founded, 12 states have either changed rules or passed legislation to include anti-trafficking training in commercial driver’s license school curricula. TAT regularly hosts “coalition builds” to conduct training with law enforcement agencies, according to NBC. It has partnerships with hundreds of companies, including FedEx, Amazon and TravelCenters of America, to implement anti-trafficking education among its drivers.

TAT offers a free online training video showing drivers what to look for when they’re out on the road, such as a vehicle driven by a man but containing young women, or branding such as tattoos that might indicate ownership.

If a trucker suspects a situation involving human trafficking, he can call the National Human Trafficking hotline, 1-888-3737-888.

Last week, a more familiar kind of trucker also jumped on board the anti-trafficking campaign. United Parcel Service—UPS—announced that the company is strengthening its commitment to anti-human trafficking awareness and training by empowering drivers to help be the “eyes and ears” of the community, CBS reported. To implement the training, the company teamed up with the Truckers Against Trafficking.

Human Trafficking
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