By Laura Cyrus, Director of Corporate Engagement, Truckers Against Trafficking
Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) is a 501(c)3 that exists to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and busing industries to combat human trafficking.
As January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month with January 11th designated as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the Truckers Against Trafficking Organization is pleased to share information about the growth of this global criminal issue and how our organization and its partners, including HireRight, are working to help combat human trafficking in the United States.
Human trafficking is defined as the exploitation of human beings through force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of commercial sex or forced labor. Typically a third party — the trafficker or “the victimizer” — assumes control of an individual and makes a profit through coercion from their labor. In the United States, as in many places around the world, human trafficking can take on many forms — from forcing someone into prostitution or to work involuntarily at a strip club or “massage” parlor to trafficking them for labor in agricultural fields, inside homes for domestic servitude, on construction sites or even at restaurants. Victims can be anyone — foreign nationals or American citizens, men or women, boys or girls.
The unfortunate reality is that victims of trafficking could be around all of us in our everyday lives, but we may not be aware of their plight. In fact, traffickers — pimps especially — are counting on us thinking that the person that they’re selling is somehow less than us — “just a prostitute,” and that we’re going to look the other way and not care enough to get involved because of preconceived ideas we have about what “prostitution” looks like. In reality, these victims are not “prostitutes;” they are prostituted people, who are there not by choice, but by lack of choices and the exploitative influence of their trafficker keeping them there.
How Can You and Your Organization Help?
We know that traffickers are routinely exploiting their victims at locations specific to transportation, including truck stops, travel plazas, hotels/motels, rest areas and even places of business where truck drivers may be delivering their loads. This is why Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) exists. At its core, TAT is dedicated to changing targeted systems: we are going after hearts and minds in order to enlist a mobile army of transportation professionals to assist law enforcement in the recognition and reporting of human trafficking and to aid in the recovery of victims and the arrest of their perpetrators. Our training, provided at no cost, is easy for companies to implement and provides actionable strategies which ultimately lead to the discovery and disruption of human trafficking networks.
We are now working to do this not only in the trucking industry, but also within busing, and the oil and gas sector.
Our Busing on the Lookout (BOTL) was launched in early 2018. TAT developed this program and industry-specific training materials designed for the bus industry (commercial and school) because we recognize that bus drivers, terminal workers, maintenance staff, dispatch operators and others are also on the front lines, particularly as there are several points of intersections connecting buses and human trafficking. In a study released by Polaris, which manages the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 42 percent of survivors stated that their traffickers utilized local or long-distance buses in the facilitation of their exploitation.
Since launching BOTL in early 2018, the reception from all segments of the bus industry – long distance, public transit, schools, tour and charter have been quite positive. Upon learning about our training, key industry stakeholders are making the commitment to end trafficking and are welcoming the opportunity to empower their drivers and terminal workers with these materials. Since our launch, we’ve had 55 companies, 13 public transit agencies, and student transportation partners in 17 states committed to adopting and/or promoting this training. This represents more than 55,000 bus industry employees who have been or will be trained soon. And we are just getting started!
This past year also saw the replication of our model within the oil and gas industry. With this expansion, we have found ways to use existing TAT programs within oil and gas companies, and we are growing our training materials to be applicable to this industry. As part of this effort, we also successfully brought together key industry stakeholders in the middle of the most active oil patch in America — the Permian Basin — to talk about the issue and light pathways for engagement. As this program continues to grow, we know we will continue to activate new partners within oil and gas that will be able to help us advance our mission to educate, equip, empower and mobilize more men and women on the frontline of this issue, ultimately leading to more lives being saved.
To date, we have now trained more than 664,000 people with our materials, and 2,221 calls have been made to the national hotline from truckers alone. These calls have helped to rescue more than 1,123 victims of human trafficking here in the United States. All of those lives have been transformed because someone in the transportation industry had been taught how to recognize the signs of potential trafficking situations and the appropriate action to take, and placing an anonymous phone call to the proper authorities (NHTRC-1-888-3737-888). That’s citizen involvement and intervention in action!
How to Become Involved
If you would like to learn more about Truckers Against Trafficking and how you could get involved, please send me an email. We have pathways for companies of all kinds and sizes — 3PLs, shippers, manufacturers, trucking carriers, busing companies, insurance providers, and others— to get involved in this life-saving work, and we would be honored to have you stand with us as we continue to spread this critical message.