Eyes On The Road
Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) was formed in 2009 to enlist the nation’s truck drivers in the fight against human trafficking. With proper training, the men and women behind the wheel are in the perfect position to witness what happens along the highways. Road King talked to TAT National Director Kendis Paris about the problem and how truckers can help.
Q How big a problem is human trafficking in the U.S.?
A The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that anywhere between 100,000 and 300,000 of America’s children are at risk for entering a sex for sale industry each year. Globally, human trafficking has surpassed arms trafficking and is second only to drug trafficking.
Q What does TAT do to combat the problem?
A We provide training materials to drivers. We have created a 28-minute training DVD, available on our website, that gives a comprehensive view of domestic sex trafficking and what the trucking industry can do in response.
We ask that drivers call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at (888) 373-7888 and report any suspicious activity they see. For example, if they see a car with three or four scantily clad girls getting out of it, they should call and report it. They can also call law enforcement, but we ask that they call NHTRC because that information is turned over to the FBI and may lead to a broader investigation. We do partner with law enforcement to facilitate investigations, and that starts with these phone calls.
Q How have the nation’s truck drivers responded to TAT’s efforts?
A These are mothers and fathers who care about America’s children, care about this issue and care about this country. Drivers write and call all the time to say, “I’ve got daughters. I’ve got granddaughters. How can I be a trucker against trafficking?”
Some drivers find out about TAT and bring it to the attention of their company. A company driver can contact us and we will send them a training DVD and wallet cards that they can take to the safety director. It’s one thing for us to call a company, but it makes a substantial impact when one of their own drivers says, “This matters to me and I’d like to see our whole company trained on this.”
Q What are some key signs to look for as evidence of trafficking?
A Obviously a young girl wandering a parking area would be something to notice, but it’s important to know that trafficking doesn’t stop just because the victim turns 18. There are women in their 20s and 30s who are being trafficked.
Watch the suspected victim’s demeanor and composure. Even if you just have a gut feeling that something about the situation is off, make that phone call to the NHTRC — the people there are trained to look into what you report. It’s OK to be wrong. And by taking just five minutes of your life to make the call, you could be saving someone’s life.
Q What are some of the common misconceptions about these girls?
A People always ask why they don’t just walk away. But the victims of trafficking firmly believe there is no escape. Traffickers use physical abuse, confinement and forced drug addiction to keep victims compliant. The most powerful means they use is threats to the victim or their family, saying “if you don’t do this, I’ll go get your sister.” The stories from survivors are horrifying. So when someone is rescued, it is not an overnight restoration process. It takes years to heal.
Q Is it possible to stop the demand that fuels trafficking?
A One survivor said, “We are smiling on the outside but dying on the inside.” That is true for most trafficking victims.
We hope that our education and training about human trafficking and the reality of the abuse that goes with it will eliminate any demand.
The vast majority of the trucking industry are men and women of integrity who want to do the right thing and are in a position to do the brave and courageous thing.
Lives are being saved because of this. It is working.
For more information www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org
To report suspicious activity
National Human Trafficking Resource Center – (888) 373-7888