On Friday, September 15th, the U.S. Senate passed two bills that focus on the involvement of the commercial trucking industry in human trafficking for labor or sex. Both of the bills received bipartisan support and were passed unanimously. Under the new legislation, a driver that commits a felony related to human trafficking would be permanently banned from operating a commercial vehicle for the remainder of their lifetime.
The No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act (S. 1532), sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), specifically disqualifies commercial drivers from operating a commercial motor vehicle for life if found guilty of committing a felony involving human trafficking.
The Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act (S. 1536), sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), designates a human trafficking prevention coordinator and expands human trafficking prevention outreach and educational activities.
Human trafficking is a growing issue in the U.S. According to the Urban Institute, human sex trafficking in the U.S. is estimated to be a $30 billion a year industry. Trafficking victims are often physically and emotionally abused.
Sex trafficking predominately involves girls under the age of 18. Due to the high traffic and isolation of their locations, truck stops are one of the most common places for trafficking minors. Truck stops, rest areas and welcome centers are target areas because of the dominant male customer base that use these types of facilities. These locations are attractive for sex trafficking because they are typically geographically isolated, making it difficult for victims to escape. There are as many as 300,000 American youth who are at risk for sex trafficking and an additional 17,000 foreign children who are victimized. Under federal law, any minor under the age of 18 induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking – regardless of whether the trafficker used force, fraud or coercion.
Smuggling humans into the U.S. for forced labor is also a growing issue. A recent incident in San Antonio, Texas where 10 immigrants died in a commercial truck trailer, illustrates this issue. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is responsible for enforcing crimes related to human smuggling and trafficking. The U.S. is a prime destination for thousands of men, women and children who are illegally brought into the U.S. via commercial trucks and forced into prostitution, domestic servitude and other types of forced labor. Traffickers typically take away their travel and identity documents and threaten to kill their families if they do not submit.
There is growing awareness in the trucking community about human trafficking and how they can help prevent victimization. There are numerous local, state and national organizations established to fight against human trafficking; some specifically focused on the involvement of the trucking industry. One such organization is Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). TAT helps truckers recognize a possible trafficking victim and what to do if victimization is suspected.
The legislation that recently passed will reach out to commercial truck drivers, informing them of the growing issue and how they can play a significant role in helping people who are being victimized as well as stiffer penalties for truckers who commit human trafficking felonies.
While there appears to be widespread support for increased outreach, education and reporting efforts related to human trafficking and the trucking industry, some truck driver associations have expressed opposition to Senate Bill 1532, saying that it unfairly targets the trucking industry.
Human trafficking continues to be a problem that has proven to be difficult to control. The majority of truck drivers that are aware of the issue want to make an effort to help victims. AAOO is dedicated to commercial motor carrier owner-operators’ safety and success. Start living a safer, healthier and wealthier lifestyle today by joining AAOO.