There is an army rising – one that intends to put an end to the modern day horror of human trafficking – and many of the heroes filling these ranks are truckers and other members of the transportation industry!
Human trafficking is a form of slavery in which victims are forced, extorted, or coerced into performing sex acts or labor services against their will. There are currently 21 million slaves in the world, with hundreds of thousands trafficked in the U.S., in all 50 states. While moving from place to place, traffickers will seek to sell their victims, often underage teenagers and even children, along the way at places like truck and rest stops, motels, gas stations, and loading docks. This puts sex slaves into the transient world of truckers who, with increasing awareness, are heroically alerting authorities and saving lives.
A growing organization, Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), trains drivers how to identify and report instances of human trafficking. Lyn Thompson, the co-founder of TAT, credits truckers’ observational skills, service nature, professionalism, and history of helping others on the road as qualities that make them ideal heroes at the front lines. Truckers not only have the skills to spot problems and contact law enforcement, but they also want to help. Why? The Miami Herald posed this question to trucker Tim Woods, who explained that most drivers “are all about their kids, because so many have to be away from their families more than they’d like. I have a 16-year-old daughter myself, and if someone harmed her that way…”
To be clear, no one is asking truckers to conduct dangerous rescue missions. The best course of action for truckers who see questionable activity is to place a call to 911 or to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, so that trained professionals can help truckers determine situations and can contact the proper authorities. According to TAT, such life-saving calls from truckers have helped identify hundreds of cases of human trafficking involving thousands of adult and child victims. So what can you do?
- Get certified. Training offered by TAT simply involves a 26-minute video and 15-question quiz. Many states, trucking organizations and associations, and companies require this training for their commercial drivers. We know it’s one more thing to add to your busy schedule, but considering the lives that could be saved, we strongly encourage you to embrace the opportunity.
- Know the signs. While there can be many, some signs of trafficking include being “handled” or an inability to leave; not being allowed to speak; bruises or other signs of battering or poor health; fear, anxiety, or depression; lack of identification; and brands or tattoos (often on the neck) or dogtags with the trafficker’s name. *Note: There is no such thing as a child- or teen-prostitute; anyone under the age of 18 who is sold for sex is nonconsenting and a victim of trafficking.
- Make the call. If you suspect trafficking, call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. If you find yourself speaking with a potential victim, ensure that you are in a safe and confidential environment before questioning them or offering help. Remove yourself from any dangerous situation and contact law enforcement as soon as you are safe.
- Have the right resources. You can download or order TAT wallet cards or download the free app to have relevant information with you wherever you go. The app also lets you call the National Hotline or submit a digital report right on your smartphone.
Gone are the days of joking about “lot lizards.” Today’s truckers and transportation industry workers recognize that these individuals – usually women and children – are likely victims of human trafficking and are heroically saving their lives by contacting authorities. Stopping sex slavery is hardly the sole responsibility of truckers – much more work must be done in lawmaking, law enforcement, and prosecution. But on the front lines of this issue, truckers can sometimes be the only ones to identify trafficking and make the call. We hope you will join the fight!