How Truckstops Can Help Fight Human Trafficking

Often described as modern-day slavery, human trafficking has been reported across all modes of transportation and in many legitimate businesses that unknowingly are used for this illicit activity.


Often described as modern-day slavery, human trafficking has been reported across all modes of transportation and in many legitimate businesses that unknowingly are used for this illicit activity.

Because truckstops and travel pla­zas are situated along the nation’s Interstate Highway System, the in­dustry has an important role to play in helping spot and report victims of human trafficking, who are often moved across state lines.

Just one incident of human traf­ficking can have serious conse­quences for a business. It essen­tially brings organized crime to the location, putting employees and customers at risk. What’s more, businesses face significant financial hardship to cover the cost of litiga­tion if they are accused of a crime as well as to cover costs related to brand and reputation management.

Steps Truckstops Can Take
 - Risk Assessment
To help fight human trafficking, op­erators should first assess their risks and carry out a thorough review of the location to identify areas that might be vulnerable. Operators should consider utilizing personnel, law enforcement or an insurance agent to provide additional input. Communicating with local law en­forcement is key to knowing if they have seen evidence of human traf­ficking in the area and what steps to take to help prevent it.

- Training
It’s critical that travel plazas and truckstops train staff to know how to identify potential victims of human trafficking and what to do if they see evidence of it or suspect a case.

One of the greatest challenges in helping victims is that they often may be difficult to spot or afraid to seek help due to threats from their captors. But there are subtle warning signs. They include showing signs of physical abuse, lacking knowledge about where he or she is, lacking identification, ap­pearing malnourished or fearful of law enforcement or authority, avoiding eye contact, being unable to come and go independently and wearing cloth­ing that seems inappropriate for the weather, among others.

Employees can be on the lookout for particular signs based on the area of the truckstop or travel plaza they work in. For example, c-store employees should look for custom­ers who are not in control of their own money, seem unable to speak freely for themselves or appear hesi­tant to make eye contact.

Parking lot attendants should watch for individuals who are unable to travel freely and are picked up or dropped off by another individual. Custodians should watch for individuals who have branding or tattoos that indicate they are someone else’s possession.

- Responsibilities
It’s important to note that managers and employees each have different roles when it comes to fighting hu­man trafficking.

Employees who suspect human trafficking should never confront the potential victim or trafficker. If someone is in immediate danger or in need of medical attention, employees should call 911. Other­wise, they should assess the situa­tion, notify the manager on duty and then take careful notes about what they see so information can be passed along to law enforce­ment. Information could include a description of the suspect and the victims, the type of vehicle in­volved and the time of day.

Managers should identify employ­ee protocol and train staff. Managers also should be the person to place the call to the appropriate law en­forcement agency or hotline.

To speak confidentially about hu­man trafficking with a non-govern­mental organization, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 Text INFO or HELP to: BeFree (233733).

To report suspected human trafficking to law enforcement, call the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tip Line at 1-866-347-2423.


Four Types of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking uses force, fraud or coercion to exploit men, women and children. It can take several forms, including:

Labor: The International Labour Organization defines forced labor as situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation or by more subtle means, such as accumulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities.

Sex Trafficking: Sex trafficking is when traffickers compel an individual to engage in commercial sex.

Debt Bondage: Bonded labor occurs when traffickers or recruiters unlawfully exploit an initial debt a worker assumed as part of the terms of employment.

Servitude: Involuntary servitude involves a person laboring against his or her will to benefit another.


Human trafficking warning signs include:

  • showing signs of physical abuse
  • lacking knowledge about where he or she is
  • lacking identification
  • appearing malnourished or fearful of law enforcement or authority
  • avoiding eye contact
  • being unable to come and go independently
  • wearing clothing that seems inappropriate for the weather, among others. 


The NATSO Foundation has developed an e-learning tool titled “The Role of Truckstops in Combating Human Trafficking” to help truckstop owners, operators and their employees understand what human trafficking is, identify where it might be a risk to their business and pinpoint actions they can take to address this risk. This resource is part of the foundation’s “How Truckstops Help People” campaign and includes modules designed for truckstop and travel plaza managers and owners as well as employees and supervisors. It is available online here

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