LAS VEGAS - The American Trucking Associations says it has joined with Truckers Against Trafficking to alert member executives and drivers about the "sex trade" and train them to help fight against the crime.
Some of the materials available through Truckers Against Trafficking.
"There are over 3.1 million truck drivers who travel over 408 billion miles each year," said ATA Chairman Dan England, chairman of C.R. England Inc., Salt Lake City, during a press conference at ATA's Management Conference and Expo in Las Vegas over the weekend.
"We are asking our motor carriers to include this important information in their training programs and to work with their customers and communities to help combat the problem.
"These professionals are the eyes and ears of the nation's highways, and with knowledge and guidance, they can make a big difference and save lives."
ATA and TAT want drivers to report suspicious activity they may see at truckstops, rest areas and other places along interstate and main highways, said England and others who spoke at the press conference.
They can call a toll-free number or, better yet, punch 911 on their cell phones if they see people apparently in distress and needing immediate help, said Lt. Karen Hughes, who heads a task force of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department.
"It's OK to be wrong" when making a call -- better than not calling and letting a girl remain in bondage, said Paul Enos of the Nevada Trucking Association.
Most victims are young teenage girls, typically 12 to 14 years of age, Hughes said. Often they are runaways from dysfunctional homes who are enticed into the trade, then trapped in it.
They are frequently moved by their handlers - pimps - to keep them from forming relationships with people who might help them.
"One hundred and thirty-one were rescued by our unit in 2011," she said. "That included two boys."
The Department of Justice estimates between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk every year to traffickers in the United States and that many children, teens and young women are sold into the sex trade.
"Traffickers are continually moving their victims from place to place, for a variety of reasons, along our nation's highways and roads," said Kendis Paris, national director of Truckers Against Trafficking.
"They 'sell' their victims at truckstops, travel plazas and rest stops, because they're convenient; transient populations frequent them who are less likely to 'rescue' the victims; they have to use them anyway to buy gas and eat; and it's easy money and a good way to break in their victims for other things."
A number of ATA affiliates already work closely with TAT, including state trucking associations in California, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada and Wisconsin, the national group said.
TAT provides a number of resources for the industry, including a wallet card with guidelines and a telephone number to call. They provide a training DVD, webinars and other outreach materials.
The national trafficking hotline number is 1-888-373-7888, or in easier to remember form, 888-3737-888.
TAT is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to educating, equipping, empowering and mobilizing the trucking industry to fight human trafficking. Its resources include a website, a trucking-industry-specific training DVD, webinars, posters, and speakers/trainers. More information is available at www.truckersagainsttrafficking.com.