The organization is called Truckers Against Trafficking and their mission is to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and busing industries to combat human trafficking. To put it simply, the program teaches truckers what to look for and who to call for help, and now eyes looking to rescue victims are multiplying by the minute.
Truck driver Robert Harris has been hauling goods for nearly 20 years. “Yeah, I’ve always loved driving…. probably always will.”
He says a lot has changed in the trucking industry since he first started, but he’s changed too. Truckers across Michigan are now aware of a major problem deeply rooted in the trucking industry.
Human trafficking is frequently found at truck stops, rest areas and highway motels. Captain Michael Krumm with the Michigan State Police says these areas are used by a transient customer base, are hidden from view, and provide enough enticement to bring in the pimps.
“Unfortunately at truck stops and areas where we see high populations of males are an attractant to these people who would do this to these victims.”
But the secrets, signs, and symbols of human trafficking are hidden no more, in fact, Laura Cyrus says more than 560,00 people are now TAT trained.
“It’s exciting because we are truly raising up this invisible army of every day heroes.”
Cyrus is the Operations Director for Truckers Against Trafficking. She says the awareness program educating drivers about the horror along the highways is spreading statewide.
“It’s really about changing the heart and minds of an industry that has been seeing this crime happening for a long time, but also giving them the tools to understand what they are looking for”
There are far more truckers than law enforcement on Michigan roadways who routinely stop at places prone to women being pimped out. Cyrus says, connecting truckers with the right information could save a victim’s life.
“The idea behind this is that these men and women are well-trained, they are observant, they are vigilant, and they can absolutely provide an extra set of eyes and ears for law enforcement in recovering victims and having traffickers arrested.”
Getting TAT trained involves understanding the problem, what signs to look for, and phone numbers to call to report something suspicious. This simple method to stop human trafficking has mobilized many, and some with great influence in order to stop these crimes.
Kristin Beck is the North American Road Logistics Modal Leader with the Dow Chemical Company. She helps manage tens of thousands of workers connected to the trucking industry and was moved after getting TAT trained.
“When we learned about the program and training platform, we decided to make it a mandatory requirement for all of our service providers in North America.”
That means truckers not just in Michigan, but across every state in the continental U.S. attached to Dow Chemical is aware and watching, that may only get bigger.
“Eventually we would like to take this global,” says Beck. “This is a growing global crime and we are a global company.”
It’s not just truckers either. While working on ways to remove human trafficking from Michigan — Captain Krumm was also impacted by watching a TAT training video a few years back in Iowa and sprang into action.
“We contacted every truck stop in the state, we contacted every rest area, we partnered with MDOT, and the Secretary of State to make sure that these awareness videos and information gets out and disseminated.”
The movement is working too. So far 1980 calls have been made to the national hotline by truckers, 557 cases have been generated, with 1035 victims getting saved and identified. These stats didn’t exist before Truckers Against Trafficking, and now that Harris knows what’s at stake, he’s happy to keep his eyes both on the road and for those who may need his help.
“If I had a family member who got abducted or something like that, I would like people to be looking out for them. I would hope if people saw something they would call and say something.”