Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Wisconsin may join states that teach commercial truck drivers how to keep an eye out for human trafficking

A bill in the Wisconsin state Senate would give more long-haul truck drivers the tools to help fight human trafficking. A similar bill was introduced in 2017 but stalled in the Senate.

"At least eight other states have enacted similar policies, which one group says has led to a dramatic uptick in the number of trafficking reports from truckers—from sporadic calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline to more than 2,300 reports and counting," Katie Queram reports for Route Fifty. "Those calls opened 635 cases of sex trafficking involving 1,186 victims, according to the nonprofit organizationTruckers Against Trafficking."

In Wisconsin, "Senate Bill 25, introduced in February and recently approved by a committee, would require commercial motor vehicle driver education classes include information on how to recognize and prevent human trafficking," Queram reports. "Proponents said the measure makes sense because human trafficking regularly occurs along highways and at truck stops and rest areas, places populated primarily—and sometimes only—by truck drivers."

Many private truck-driving schools already warn drivers to be on the lookout for human trafficking, but students at state technical colleges may not get that training, according to Dan Johnson, vice president of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association. Johnson testified in favor of the bill in March, telling lawmakers, "Education is the key to [fixing] this problem."

Wisconsin's more than 312,000 licensed commercial drivers are in a unique position to keep an eye out for human trafficking, according to Sen. LaTonya Johnson, a Milwaukee Democrat who is the bill's main sponsor. "This is a huge network of eyes and ears within the interstate trade industry that can support law enforcement in the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of traffickers," she said in a recent public hearing.

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