TravelCenters of America and NATSO hosted Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) at TA’s Foristell, Mo., location April 19 as part of a congressional site visit designed to discuss issues of importance to the truckstop and travel plaza community.
Issues discussed included the industry’s anti-human trafficking education campaign as well as the high interchange fees that truckstops must pay every time a customer swipes a credit or debit card.
Rep. Wagner visited with TA employees and toured the facility to learn more about how the truckstop chain educates its employees to identify and report suspected incidents of human trafficking. Joining the Congresswoman were TA Senior Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Tom Liutkus, Foristell Chief of Police Doug Johnson and NATSO Vice President of Public Affairs Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman.
In addressing TA’s employees Rep. Wagner said that that education and awareness are critical tools in the fight against human trafficking and that truckstops are on the front lines of fighting this heinous crime.
“To me, the most important thing we are doing [is] education,” Rep. Wagner said. “[We are] empowering individuals and employees to take [action]. I applaud what you are doing.”
Rep. Wagner reviewed the NATSO Foundation’s online training course titled “The Role of Truckstops in Combating Human Trafficking.” The Congresswoman also toured the TA location, studying how TA targets customers with public awareness materials throughout the location. For example, TA displays Department of Homeland Security posters carrying the hotline number to report suspected human trafficking in the driver’s lounge and on kiosks in its travel store along with educational pamphlets and wallet cards provided by Truckers Against Trafficking. Rep. Wagner also walked through the parking facility, where TA has installed new lighting and StaySafe signs that urge driver’s to call the local police department if they suspect any unwanted activity.
TA has more than 250 locations in more than 43 states. As one of the first truckstops to engage in the fight against human trafficking, TA requires all employees to take anti-human trafficking training during their orientation.
Chief Johnson said his police department has a strong relationship with TA and that any tools that help law enforcement are a benefit to both law enforcement and the local community.
Local news outlet KMOV Channel 4 covered the event, highlighting the role that truckstops and travel plazas can play in fighting human trafficking along the Interstate Highway System. Click here to view the News Channel 4 segment.
During her visit, Liutkus also discussed the critical need to maintain the swipe fee reforms instituted under the Durbin Amendment. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) on April 19 introduced the Financial Choice Act that would repeal debit card swipe fee reform. A hearing is scheduled to be held next week, and the House will consider the bill around the time of NATSO’s annual Day on the Hill, scheduled to be held May 15-17. NATSO members are urged to register to attend Day on the Hill to voice their opposition to repeal of the Durbin Amendment.
Repeal of the Durbin Amendment would allow the big banks to impose outrageous fees on merchants and increase prices for consumers. Companies like Visa and MasterCard will dominate the market to the extent that they can fix fees, squeezing retailers and raising costs for consumers. It is currently estimated that swipe fees cost merchants and consumers $40 billion every year.
NATSO‘s government affairs team orchestrates congressional visits across the country to put truckstop and travel plaza members in direct contact with congressional leaders. These visits allow Members of Congress to hear and experience first-hand the challenges and issues facing the truckstop and travel plaza industry today.
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