January marks National Human Trafficking Awareness month. It serves as a reminder to all businesses and individuals to not only mobilize in the fight against human trafficking but to effect change all year long.
Each year for nearly a decade, NATSO has grown its anti-human trafficking initiative with a goal of ensuring that the nation's travel plazas and truckstops have the necessary tools to successfully respond if they encounter a suspected incidence of human trafficking.
In 2019, I had the honor of serving as vice chair for a U.S. Department of Transportation human trafficking subcommittee for the Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking. NATSO significantly contributed to DOT’s final report for state and local governments to implement anti-trafficking initiatives.
That report offers a systematic assessment of data, strategies, policies, protocols, training and awareness needs regarding the intersection of the transportation sector and human trafficking. Recommendations and best practices were outlined for the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Congress, states, private industry, NGOs and local transportation authorities with regard to funding, partnerships, policies and protocols, training and awareness, data and information-sharing and survivor support.
NATSO's service on the Education and Awareness Subcommittee marked another successful chapter in our industry's longstanding initiative to advance public awareness and educate the truckstop and travel plaza industry to fight human trafficking along America’s Interstate Highway System.
Tools to Participate
In 2020, I encourage each of you to renew your commitment to combating human trafficking and the NATSO Foundation's "How Truckstops Help People" campaign.
There are many ways that your travel center or truckstop can participate.
- Specifically, NATSO offers a Combating Human Trafficking Toolkit, to help the industry implement a comprehensive program to combat human trafficking. The toolkit offers truckstops and travel centers a roadmap for implementing an anti-human trafficking education and awareness program at their individual locations. Specifically, it details five key components of an anti-human trafficking campaign.
- The NATSO Foundation offers an online learning tool, "The Role of Truckstops in Combating Human Trafficking," designed to help teach truckstop owners, operators and employees how to respond if they suspect human trafficking. The course is available free of charge to any member of the truckstop and travel plaza community.
- The NATSO Foundation also offers a 50-state chart of human trafficking awareness poster laws. This document provides detailed information on the state-specific laws requiring certain businesses to hang human trafficking public awareness materials. This is an important tool for truckstops and travel centers as many state laws reference businesses that provide services and amenities which many truckstop and travel plazas offer, such as overnight parking, food, fuel and lodging.
- Through its alliance with the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign, the NATSO Foundation provides the DHS Blue Campaign’s training and awareness materials – including posters, handouts and other materials — to the nation’s truckstops and travel plazas.
- The NATSO Foundation co-sponsors regional meetings with Truckers Against Trafficking that bring members of the business community together with law enforcement to discuss regional human trafficking trends and collective ways to combat this crime. Approximately a half dozen of these events take place each year in various parts of the United States.
- The NATSO Foundation also works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to increase the visibility of missing children at high risk for sex trafficking through the agency's High-Risk Poster Listserv. Businesses uniquely positioned to help identify missing children considered to be at high risk for sex trafficking can register to receive electronic posters containing their images and other vital information.
Each year, our industry’s efforts gather momentum. All across the country, growing numbers of truckstops and travel plazas are making a difference.
As we enter a new year, I encourage you to engage in our industrywide effort to raise awareness about this unspeakable crime. Please reach out by email at email@example.com or call me at (703) 739-8578 at any time to connect on this important issue.
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