Human trafficking is a global plague, and our industry can help stop it.
Human trafficking is a global criminal enterprise with an estimated value in the hundreds of billions. It’s widely considered the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world, after drugs and arms trafficking. And it’s been getting worse.
According to a recent report by the United Nations’ labor agency, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the rates of modern slavery have risen considerably in recent years. The number of people living in conditions of modern slavery, which the ILO defines as either forced labor or forced marriage – increased by more than 9 million in the five-year period from 2016 to 2021. The total number of people living under these conditions in 2021 – the most recent year for which the ILO provides data – now exceeds 50 million worldwide.
Clearly, something needs to be done.
Since 2010, January has been recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month; however, many people might not realize the tremendous impact that professionals in our industry in particular can have as part of the solution. In this post, I’ll walk through some of the incredible initiatives and resources to have come out of the supply chain, manufacturing and logistics industry in recent years, and the role we all have to play in curbing the spread of human trafficking among the world’s most vulnerable communities.
One of the dark realities of our industry is that truck drivers are often sought out by trafficking organizations as potential customers. As pointed out by human trafficking survivor Liz Williamson in a recent Women In Trucking article: “Truck drivers who go to different cities and stay for extended periods of time are targeted by traffickers. She says traffickers will bring girls to these areas in hopes of finding customers who are lonely or interested in buying a girl to relax.”
This means, however, that a disproportionate impact can be made by those within the logistics industry who are willing to step up, say “This is wrong,” and report these events to the proper authorities. Just ask Kevin Kimmel, a driver for CFI International and frequent spokesperson for TAT.
While stopped at a gas station in New Kent County, Virginia, Kimmel noticed a dilapidated RV with black-curtained windows sharing the lot with him, a sight that struck him as somewhat suspicious. When he later saw a man knock before entering the vehicle, followed by a brief glimpse of what appeared to be an underage girl behind the curtains, Kimmel chose to put in a call to the local sheriff’s department.
Soon thereafter, he was watching uniformed deputies pull a young woman from the vehicle, followed by a man and woman in handcuffs. Kimmel later gave his statement to both police and the FBI, and learned that his call had resulted in the arrest and eventual sentencing of two sex traffickers, as well as the return of the young woman to her family in Iowa.
“When I saw the young girl’s face,” recalls Kimmel, “I said, ‘That’s not going to happen.’ I’ve got daughters and granddaughters.”
Kimmel now speaks frequently to audiences across the country, discussing the rising crime of human trafficking and the need for people in his profession to learn the signs of human trafficking and understand their role in preventing it. He’s part of an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), which began as a ministry initiative in 2009, and now TAT’s mission is to empower truckers to be the “eyes and ears on the road,” assisting law enforcement’s efforts to curb the rise of human trafficking. The organization educates, equips, empowers and mobilizes members of the trucking and busing industries through a variety of training and partner programs and resources, training them to recognize the signs of human trafficking, and to report any suspicious activity they see along their routes.
“[Traffickers] are constantly moving these people,” Kimmel said in a CNN interview back in 2017. “They stay in the darkness. That’s why they can’t be anywhere too long. But when you’re moving them, then you come into my world. If we know the signs and are vigilant, then we can make a big piece of this problem go away.”
Back in 2019, FourKites partnered with Truckers Against Trafficking, integrating their system into our CarrierLink mobile app and creating a mechanism for the nation’s millions of truck drivers and other logistics workers to report signs of human trafficking via the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH).
To date, TAT’s initiatives have resulted in over 1.5 million industry professionals trained and certified, contributing to the more than 82,000 cases of human trafficking and nearly 165,000 victims identified via the hotline.
It’s also not just truck and bus drivers who can get TAT-certified. TAT works with everyone from truck stop and gas station employees to Uber and Lyft drivers to state highway patrol officers. When it comes to curbing the spread of something as insidious as human trafficking, everyone has a part they can play.
Check out the following links to learn more about Truckers Against Trafficking and Become TAT-Trained, or if you’d like to help out another way, you can make a donation to Truckers Against Trafficking here.