While industry leaders used National Human Trafficking Awareness Month to remind stakeholders about the problem, Truckers Against Trafficking wants to be sure this issue receives year-round awareness.
According to Esther Goetsch, executive director of nonprofit Truckers Against Trafficking, the industry is “in a unique position to be able to recognize and report the crime of human trafficking, knowing that it’s a crime that often hides in plain sight.”
In the wake of the January awareness campaign, two organizations in the transportation industry are working hard to raise awareness of human trafficking and combat this problem.
DOT’s anti-trafficking efforts
The U.S. Department of Transportation recently launched the 2024 Combating Human Trafficking in Transportation Impact Award. According to a DOT press release, the award “incentivizes individuals and organizations to think creatively in developing innovative solutions to combat human trafficking in the transportation industry and to share those innovations with the broader community.” According to the Federal Register notice, submissions for this award are open until March 11.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also launched a new awareness campaign: the Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign. “The effort aims to educate and empower travelers and employees across all modes of transportation to recognize and report suspected instances of human trafficking,” according to a DOT press release. “A variety of materials are available for download and can be tailored for use by transportation entities across the country to help raise awareness.”
The campaign focuses on various transportation sectors, including “airplanes and airports, buses and bus stations, trains and rail stations, rest areas and travel centers, ports,” and other areas of transportation where human trafficking can occur.
“The horrors of human trafficking are far-reaching, but together, we have the power to detect and prevent them,” Secretary Buttigieg said in a press release. “We’re empowering America’s transportation workforce and the traveling public—hundreds of millions strong—to be the eyes and ears of a collective effort to combat trafficking.”
TAT’s anti-trafficking efforts
Since its establishment in 2009, Truckers Against Trafficking has focused on more than just educating drivers. According to Goetsch, TAT began with the trucking industry but has branched out to raise awareness of human trafficking in the bus industry, energy industry, and law enforcement and public sector agencies across the U.S. and Canada.
“TAT is the expert in terms of what human trafficking is and how to equip specific industry sectors with tools and resources, training, and awareness,” Goetsch said. “But our partners are the ones that get those tools out to individuals, whether they be drivers or frontline staff. Our partners are the ones who both amplify the message within the industry and make it an industry standard to be fighting human trafficking, as well as make the actual training resources available to those frontline workers at the end of the day.”
Recently, TAT relaunched its Truckers Against Trafficking app. According to TAT’s website, this app helps individuals identify and report human trafficking and provides resources and training tools on this problem. As Goetsch told FleetOwner, TAT plans to keep developing this app to make it more interactive, inclusive (especially with languages), and useful to the trucking and other transportation industries.
TAT is also currently accepting nominations for its Harriet Tubman Award. According to Goestch, this award is given annually to individuals who “made a call or helped prevent or intervene in a trafficking situation.” Goetsch suggested fleet managers could tell their drivers about this award to help keep them more aware of the possible human trafficking situations around them. According to TAT’s website, the award winner receives a $2,500 check and prize package.
“It’s [human trafficking] a crime that often hides in plain sight,” Goestch said. “That’s what we hear from victims and survivors that, contrary to a lot of myths and stereotypes that you see in Hollywood movies, oftentimes victims are not in locked doors or chains or anything like that. They’re existing in our communities. They’re living and working among us but behind closed doors. They’re being exploited by their traffickers and by the buyers of commercial sex.”