The nation’s truck drivers are instrumental in the growing fight against human trafficking. No group is more familiar with the country’s transportation networks, and no greater force of individuals numbering in the millions can be so quickly mobilized to impact the circumstances of those fallen prey to trafficking.
Here’s how truckers and other front-line workers can help authorities stamp out human trafficking, the red flags to know when identifying suspicious activity, and additional resources that may prove helpful in this important effort.
Acknowledging the Domestic Human Trafficking Problem
Trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, targeting individuals in particularly vulnerable situations likely to lack the resources to seek help on their own. An estimated 40 million people, primarily women and children, have fallen prey to traffickers worldwide to serve as commercial sex workers or in other forms of forced labor. Frequently these victims are taken by force or coercion from schools, shopping malls, exposed populations (like the homeless), or via deceptive online recruitment practices.
Human trafficking is as much a domestic problem as it is a global one, having been reported in all 50 states and estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands in the U.S. Traffickers are known to use truck stops, highway motels, and rest areas as cover for their crimes, as they are typically in remote locations and out of sight from the average population. It’s the frequent use of these locations that put the transportation industry in a unique position to fight back.
Trafficking victims need to be identified and recovered. Here’s how truckers can help.
Why Truckers and Other Front-Line Workers Are in a Position to Help
Those in the trucking, bus, and energy industries represent “the eyes and ears of our nation’s highways.” As such, these workers have an instrumental part to play in identifying the warning signs of trafficking in remote locations, as well as how to best take swift action in cases of suspected criminal activity.
When traffickers attempt to exploit the transportation system to hide their victims, it’s up to truckers and those especially familiar with the remote locations along the nation’s transportation networks to respond. The more trained drivers with an understanding of how traffickers operate, the red flags indicating potential kidnapping and abuse, and how to report suspicious activity effectively, the bigger a difference the watchful eyes of more than 3.5 million truckers can make.
How Truckers Against Trafficking is Taking Action
Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) exists “to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking, bus and energy industries to combat human trafficking.” Among TAT’s many resources available in the fight against trafficking, the organization has developed a certification process and several associated training programs and initiatives to aid law enforcement in recognizing and reporting suspicious activity.
Supported by sponsors of all sizes across the transportation industry, TAT’s core programs teach hundreds of thousands of front-line workers about the realities of domestic sex trafficking, as well as how transport businesses and workers can be an effective weapon against those perpetrating these crimes. TAT partners with trucking schools, carriers, the truck stop industry, and state and national trucking associations in order to spread the word.
Through these various programs, Truckers Against Trafficking aims to saturate trucking and related industries with the resources necessary to identify signs of trafficking, partner with law enforcement and government agencies to facilitate the investigation of these warning signs, and convert the millions of drivers who frequent the nation’s highways into effective agents in the battle against human trafficking.
Identifying Trafficking Red Flags
Signs of trafficking activities can be subtle, but to the trained eye there are several components of the trafficking business drivers should be prepared to spot. These red flags generally signal signs of control, vulnerability, recruitment, and active exploitation:
- A person’s lack of knowledge of their whereabouts; not being in control of their ID or passport.
- Restricted or controlled communication or anyone not being allowed to speak for themselves.
- CB chatter about “commercial company” or flashing lights signaling “buyer” location.
- A van or RV that seems out of place out by trucks; a vehicle dropping someone off at a truck and picking them up 15 to 20 minutes later.
- Individuals that seem inappropriate together heading to the shower area .
- Signs of branding or tattooing of a trafficker’s name (often on the neck or chest).
- Signs of bruising and other visible physical trauma.
For the safety of both drivers and victims, it’s important not to approach traffickers directly. Quickly alerting law enforcement to deal with traffickers and recover victims will help avoid potential obstacles in the eventual prosecution of the traffickers.
Additional Resources to Learn How You Can Join the Fight Against Trafficking
The battle against trafficking is a team effort — the more readily available resources we have at our fingertips, the better prepared we’ll be to make a difference. Here are a few key resources for those looking to join the fight:
- TAT Truck Stop Toolkit
- DOJ Trafficking Data
- USDOT Trainings and Initiatives
- National Human Trafficking Hotline
In an effort to actively combat human trafficking and increase the impact of truckers nationwide, First Call is a proud sponsor of Truckers Against Trafficking.