Truckers Against Trafficking:
Using network leadership to mobilize the trucking community as the eyes
and ears of the nation’s highways to end sex trafficking
Domestic Sex Trafficking
Around the world, there are an estimated 20.9 million slaves.
Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, and the number of victims in the United States is estimated in the hundreds of thousands. Victims are lured, kidnapped, or otherwise coerced into forced labor or commercial sex. Traffickers recruit out of schools, online, in shopping malls, as well as the streets and other locations. A large percentage of the people trafficked are women and children. Many of them are used in the sex industry.
In fact, what we might have once observed and called “prostitution,” could in fact be forced commercial sexual activity. The victims are trafficked at a variety of venues such as on the street, in private homes, and in legitimate business such as restaurants, truck stops, and motels. Human trafficking intersects with several industries, including hospitality, tourism, oil and gas, entertainment, and transportation, amongst others.
The Need: Victims need to be identified, rescued, and supported in becoming thriving
The Big Idea
When the founders of Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) first learned about human trafficking in 2007 and that federal investigations were underway at truck stops to identify traffickers, they had a revolutionary idea:
The Big Idea: What if truckers were educated and equipped to spot and report potential signs of human trafficking to the National Hotline? “There are over three million truck drivers across the United States, driving day and night to move the commercial goods that help sustain our nation’s economy,” said Kendis Paris, executive director of TAT. “Who better to spot potential signs of trafficking on the roads and at public rest stops, travel plazas, restaurants, and hotels?”
Founded initially in 2009 as a ministry initiative, Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) became a 501c3 in 2011. TAT’s mission is to educate, equip, empower, and mobilize members of the trucking and travel plaza industry to combat domestic sex trafficking. Yet, TAT is more than an organization. Through the power of network leadership, TAT is a vibrant community across trucking and law enforcement of “truckers against trafficking” who are innovating, advocating, and partnering to end domestic sex trafficking.
The Problem Redefined & Solution Reimagined
The idea may be simple, but it is revolutionary. Traditionally, our society has been conditioned to see the problem as “prostitution.” And frankly, too often the response has been to ignore it. But, as TAT encourages, it is critical to consider, “What’s her story?” It is quite possible that a person engaged in commercial sexual activity has not chosen to be there, but has been forced or coerced.
TAT Wallet Card
So, instead of seeing “prostitution” as the problem, TAT has redefined the problem and reimagined the solution:
The Problem: Central to TAT’s approach is the belief that “traffickers,” or those who
force or coerce victims into sexual activities, are the problem.
The Solution: And, as or more importantly, truckers, as the eyes and ears of the
nation’s highways, are critical to the solution.
Core Theory of Change
Central to TAT’s theory of change, then, is the belief that equipping members of the trucking industry to spot and report potential signs of sex trafficking can lead to the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of traffickers and freedom for victims. And ultimately, this will expose the hidden crime, remove traffickers’ power, and close loopholes to traffickers.
The Theory of Change:
- Educate and equip trucking community
- truckers and travel plaza employees report potential cases
- law enforcement investigates, arrests, and
- survivors are empowered
Strategies for Engaging & Scaling
However, with over three million truck drivers across America, spreading ideas and new practices to scale the industry is
no small task. To do this, TAT offers a
number of ways for organizations across
the entire industry to engage—e.g.,
trucking companies train their drivers, state
trucking associations advocate amongst
their member companies, and law
enforcement partner with travel plazas and
trucking companies to form local coalitions.
In so doing, they are engaging
organizations and individuals across the
trucking community and law enforcement
as a network of “truckers against
Critical to their uptake is helping people
understand the reality of the issue,
providing simple actions people can take,
and communicating positively about the
potential and real impact the trucking industry is having in ending slavery.
! The App
Network leadership is core to TAT’s scaling approach. TAT is not about scaling its organization, but
rather equipping and mobilizing partners to use their expertise, resources, and power to fuel the
“We come alongside members of the trucking and law enforcement communities to provide
resources that equip and empower them. More importantly, as they learn about the issue of
trafficking, we learn from and partner with them in discovering new ways of engaging the trucking
community and supporting truckers in the effort to end trafficking,” said Paris. “They are the experts
in their sector and have the power to identify the resources at their disposal, create new ways of
engaging in anti-trafficking, and influence their peers.”
This powerful approach fosters change leaders who develop ideas and approaches in their
organization, region, or spheres of influence. If it is successful and there is potential for broader
application, TAT partners with them to write about their work. And as applicable, together they
advocate across the industry to spread the innovative approaches.
! Network Leadership Approach: TAT educates, equips and empowers trucking and
law enforcement members ! they partner to innovate and test new approaches !
TAT documents the success stories and examples others can follow ! they leverage
each others’ power and resources to advocate and diffuse across the trucking
So, what does this look like in practice? TAT has a number of programs through which trucking and
law enforcement members can partner:
• The Freedom Drivers Project is a first-of-its-kind, mobile exhibit serving as a remarkable
tool to educate members of the trucking industry, law enforcement, and general public
about domestic sex trafficking and how the trucking industry is combating it. From the
compelling exterior imagery on this 48-foot trailer to the interior’s video monitors and actual
trafficking artifacts from women and children who had been enslaved by traffickers, this
trailer serves as a powerful education tool.
• The Industry Training Program is TAT’s core program that drives the biggest impact by
training hundreds of thousands of industry members about the realities of domestic sex
trafficking and how the trucking industry can combat it. TAT training has resulted in a
significant increase of reports of possible trafficking to the national hotline from truck drivers,
which has resulted in victim recoveries and the arrest of criminals.
• The Shipping Partners Program engages major purchasers of shipping to encourage their
carriers to implement TAT materials as a regular part of training and orientation. Building on
the corporate social responsibility movement, and leveraging purchasing power, TAT is
utilizing pre-existing relationships between shippers and their carriers to train even more
• Coalition Builds bring law enforcement agencies at all levels of government together with
the general managers of truck stops, representatives of trucking companies and state
trucking associations to provide extensive training resulting in a significant increase in antitrafficking
activity in a local area.
• State-Based Initiatives build on the groundbreaking work done by the Iowa Motor Vehicle
Enforcement (Iowa MVE) agency with TAT materials, by activating the appropriate
government agencies in outreach work to the trucking industry. The Iowa MVE Model
organizes the state patrol and other law enforcement entities to utilize entry points into the
trucking industry to spread the TAT anti-trafficking message.
• The TAT Dealership Partner Program provides a specific pathway for manufacturers from
all corners of the industry to not only support TAT financially, but also raise awareness
about the realities of domestic sex trafficking and TAT’s innovative work by becoming a
distribution point for materials.
In addition, TAT is in initial stages of working to assist survivors in getting their drivers licenses. TAT
is currently surveying survivors to learn more about their needs and the potential support desired,
and efforts are also underway to work in collaboration with the American Association of Motor
Vehicle Administrators and Departments of Motor Vehicles across the nation.
Together, TAT’s programs are working to cover the many touch-points that members of the trucking
community and law enforcement may have with trafficking. By leveraging the power of the truck
drivers’ mobility and communication systems, together with local coalitions of travel plazas and law
enforcement, the real truckers against trafficking are closing loopholes to traffickers.
Structural Social Change
Together, the truckers against trafficking community is facilitating true structural change in social
systems. That is, they are creating:
! Values, Meanings, & Training: awareness of human trafficking, empathy for
victims, training around anti-trafficking actions, and efforts to stop the objectification
of women and children
! Power, Resources, & Influence: shifts of power from traffickers to the trucking and
law enforcement community who are leveraging organizational and individual
resources and relationships in anti-trafficking efforts
! Policies, Processes, & Social Practices: adoption of new policies, processes, and
social practices across the trucking and law enforcement communities to close
loopholes to traffickers
As illustrated below, TAT’s impact in mobilizing the trucking community to stop trafficking can be
seen in the number of calls placed to the National Hotline, and as or more importantly, the number of
likely cases of human trafficking identified.
It is also evidenced in stories such as that of
Con-way Truckload driver Kevin Kimmel. In
January 2015, Kimmel caught a glimpse of a
distraught-looking young girl in the darkened
window of an RV, which had pulled into the truck
stop where Kimmel had stopped to sleep. He
decided things did not look right and called the
police. When police responded, they found an
Iowa couple in the RV, along with a 20-year-old
malnourished and frightened young woman, who
said the couple had kidnapped her two weeks
earlier in Iowa and forced her into prostitution.
The couple was arrested and charged with sex
trafficking. TAT named Kimmel the 2015 Harriet Tubman
Award winner for his actions which saved a woman from
torture and modern-day slavery. As Paris said, “Kevin Kimmel
recognized, ‘You know what, there’s something not right.’ And
he had the courage to make a call and get involved. And now,
he’s helped unlock her pathway back to freedom.”
And in 2016, TAT presented its Harriet Tubman Award to two
TA/Petro employees in Jessup, Maryland, whose
observations, quick thinking, and follow-up call to police last
year helped law enforcement in Howard County arrest three
“As a driver and advocate for truckers,
it has always been important to stand
for justice, respect, and fair treatment.
No other organization has inspired us
and so many others to recognize and
do more for the exploited and suffering
of our society. As TAT’s passion,
dedication and commitment protect the
weakest and most vulnerable in life
from the atrocities and abuse of
slavery, they have been able to do
something that few can fathom… rally
and unite the entire trucking industry
together!” — said Allen S.
traffickers and recover six of the 12 women they were forcibly prostituting.
TAT’s impact has been fueled and made possible by an entire fleet of partners. Since its inception,
TAT has successfully:
Partnered to Advocate & Adopt New Practices
• Partnered with hundreds of trucking companies, public and private trucking schools, major
truck stops, all state trucking associations, and every major national trucking association
• Registered over 298,000 as TAT trained
• 28 states have adopted the Iowa MVE Model in part or whole
• State of Ohio requires TAT training to secure an entry-level Commercial Driver’s License
• Over 1 million Wallet Cards
• Over 50,000 training DVDs
And these successes are being noticed. In addition to being recognized by Congress twice, TAT was
awarded the Suzanne McDaniel Memorial Award for Public Awareness in April 2015 as part of the
annual Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus Awards at the Rayburn House Office Building in
Washington, D.C. Bill Brady, an over-the-road truck driver for Lodestar, and driver of the Freedom
Drivers Project, accepted the award on behalf of TAT. And while TAT is focused on domestic sex
trafficking, its approach is being replicated internationally.
A Model Ready for Replication While TAT continues to build the anti-trafficking infrastructure with the trucking community, it is clear it has created a model that can be replicated across other transportation sectors—such as buses and taxis. “We are currently creating a webinar designed specifically for the bus industry to forge inroads with that sector, given their intersection with potential victims, as well as our commercial vehicle enforcement partners,” said Paris. “Yet, ultimately, we hope to see champions rise up in both
the nonprofit world, as well as within the bus industry itself, in order to create a network of leaders in
and for that sector. We stand ready to share more about this approach and our lessons learned and
to partner with them as together we cover the transportation community.”
Yet, TAT’s model could equally be transferred to other industries to catalyze partnerships and new
social practices that will end trafficking. As TAT has learned in its work with agencies often
overlooked in developing strategies to combat human trafficking (such as Departments of Motor
Vehicles and Revenue), central to this will be uncovering change leaders and creative ways to
engage the industry while providing resources and a network to inspire and propel their efforts.