New Bill Proposes Mandatory Human Trafficking Awareness Course For CDL Holdersby Jana Ritter - Published: 4/12/2017
The nation has stepped up the fight against human sex trafficking over the last few years and organizations such as Truckers Against Trafficking have been educating truck drivers to become the soldiers on the frontline. But President Trump recently addressed the issue as a horrific epidemic that continues to exist and something that requires more government action as well.
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Now a bill has been introduced in the Texas senate that would make it mandatory for anyone looking to obtain a commercial vehicle license to undergo a human trafficking awareness course. The bill was introduced by Senator Sylvia R. Garcia after she discovered how serious of a problem sex trafficking has become in her state, especially on the roadways between Houston and El Paso. Her proposed bill follows similar legislation action already in the works in Kansas and Arkansas. and legislation in Ohio that already requires students taking any of the state regulated professional truck driver training programs to complete human trafficking training prior to receiving their Commercial Driver's License.
"Once truck drivers know what to do, there is an increase the NHTH (National Human Trafficking Hotline) gets in leads. This is leading to more cases being made. I think any help that law enforcement gets in terms of tips that they can follow ... that's great for everybody," Garcia says.
Kevin Kimmel is one such truck driver whose quick decision to call in a tip ended up saving a girl's life. He had never really given much thought to the issue of human trafficking until one morning in January 2015, when he spotted some strange activity at a truck stop in New Kent County, Virginia. He observed a man knock on the door of an RV with black curtains drawn and then saw the man be quickly let inside. Minutes later he saw the RV rocking back and forth. Then shortly after he saw the man leave, he spotted a young looking girl peek from behind the black curtains and abruptly disappear. His instinct told him to call law enforcement and within minutes the parking lot was swarming with officers. Then next thing he knew they were escorting a battered looking young girl out of the RV and then an older man and woman in handcuffs. It turns out the couple had lured the girl away from her home in Iowa and held her against her will for months. She had suffered unspeakable forms of daily torture in the RV and was forced to have sex with men that the couple found on-line and at the truck stops. The couple was sentenced to over 40 years in prison and Kimmel has since made it his mission to help educate fellow drivers by speaking at TAT events.
Kimmel says that truckers are often seen as prime customers for traffickers because of the transient nature of their job. "Traffickers are constantly moving these people. They stay in the darkness. That's why they can't be anywhere too long. But when you're moving them, then you come into my world. If we know the signs and are vigilant then we can make a big piece of this problem go away," Kimmel explains. He also says that part of educating truck drivers is to change their attitude about what is really going on with many of these girls. "We need to get rid of this thought that they (prostitutes who approach truckers) are doing it because they are putting themselves through college or that was their choice as that's seldom the case."
Kendis Paris of Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) says this is exactly why her organization is dedicated to educating truckers about what to look out for, how to report suspected incidences of trafficking and why it is important to do so. "A lot of guys are not sure if they're really looking at prostitution or trafficking and they just need to be helped," Paris says. "At any given time in the United States there are more truckers out on the road than there are law enforcement officers. We want to raise up a mobile army that can report these situations instead of having them take place under their noses."