A new campaign out of Florida will help truckers become involved in efforts to fight human trafficking throughout the country.
The Highway Heroes campaign, launched in late October by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles along with Attorney General Ashley Moody, has a goal of recruiting at least 500,000 truck drivers for this initiative.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking, around 25 million people are forced into commercial sex acts or other forms of labor each year. Ways to identify victims of human trafficking include a person’s particularly anxious behavior, appearance of malnourishment, or lack of control in regards to money and legal identification documents.
“Truck drivers play an important role in our fight to end human trafficking,” Moody said. “By spending so much time on the road, visiting truck stops, and communicating with each other regularly, these drivers create a powerful network that can be called upon to spot and report suspected human trafficking.” Moody is currently serving as the chair of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.
Because there are more than 500,000 licensed commercial truck drivers in the state of Florida, around 500,000 letters detailing the program and explaining human trafficking have been sent out to truckers. The letters also direct readers to training resources on the Highway Heroes website. The campaign itself has been dedicated to providing outreach materials to truckers as well as creating a brand new webpage with resources regarding ways to identify human trafficking and how to report potential crimes.
The training resources listed on the Highway Heroes website is provided by Truckers Against Trafficking, a national organization that works to help trucking industry members learn about how best to fight human trafficking. Every Florida CDL holder is able to become a TAT-trained driver through the campaign.
“We are receiving requests for more materials from Florida’s professional drivers and an outpouring of positive comments about their being a part of the solution to this heinous crime,”said Kylla Lanier, Deputy Director for TAT. Lanier hopes that the efforts made in Florida will inspire other states to pursue similar endeavors in order to help end human trafficking across the country.
A digital media campaign for Highway Heroes has also been launched across Florida and will serve messages to commercial truck drivers throughout the state about the realities of human trafficking and how they can make a difference. This digital effort will continue through the month of January, which is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
These actions are especially important in Florida, which currently ranks third in the United States in number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, according to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. The letter mailed to truckers for the Highway Heroes campaign emphasizes the fact that because there are 12,000 highway miles in the state of Florida, truckers have a vital role to play in these efforts.
“Truck drivers serve as the eyes and ears on our roads–ensuring everyone stays safe,” said Ken Armstrong, President of the Florida Trucking Association. “The members of FTA have made it a priority to train their professional drivers to spot and report human trafficking, with almost 1 million drivers having already received the training nationally. We encourage all Florida commercial truck drivers to become a certified Trucker Against Trafficking.”
Last year, a final rule was passed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration permanently banning commercial truck drivers who have been convicted of human trafficking from working in the industry–especially truckers who used a truck to commit a trafficking-involved crime.
Additionally, earlier this year, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao boosted the need to combat human trafficking at the federal level when she challenged trucking industry members to make a commitment to take actions that would help fight trafficking–asking for 100 pledges within 100 days, which was far exceeded by industry representatives in that time frame.
To view the letter sent out to Florida truckers, or to find more information regarding Truckers Against Trafficking and the Highway Heroes campaign, click here.