Tied to a cause: Driver support grows for Truckers Against Trafficking

| April 11, 2014
Climber and cattle-hauling owner-operator Matt Hopkins’ fund-raising effort for Truckers Against Trafficking, From Miles to Mountains, concluded in February with Hopkins' climb of Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina.

Climber and cattle-hauling owner-operator Matt Hopkins’ fund-raising effort for Truckers Against Trafficking, From Miles to Mountains, concluded in February with Hopkins’ climb of Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina.

Truckers Against Trafficking can count among its supporters all the major trucking associations, not to mention many of the country’s largest fleets, along with other industry partners, including Ryder and, as a high-level sponsor, Bridgestone.

J.B. Hunt is starting to train drivers on how to spot human trafficking on the roads and at truck stops, says TAT Executive Director Kendis Paris. “C.R. England’s on board,” Paris adds, “Werner, Knight,” and many other fleets, too.  “We love to see anybody using their influence to get the message out there.”

That’s where owner-operator Matt Hopkins comes in. With his “From Miles to Mountains” initiative, he transformed what would have been nothing more than a quest to climb one of the Seven Summits (the tallest peaks on every continent) into a benefit effort for TAT.

By the time Hopkins boarded a plane in Bozeman, Mont., in late January, bound for connectors that would land him in Santiago, Chile, months of planning had transformed his personal pledge.

Tony Justice for Overdrive Magazine photographed by Tyler Oxendine

ARE YOU A TRUCKER AGAINST TRAFFICKING? 
In addition to driver-songwriter Tony Justice (picture above, and featured on Overdrive‘s December 2013 cover), whose newest record speaks the Truckers Against Trafficking message via a promotional partnership, driver Timothy Coon is further evidence of TAT’s reach into the driver community. “If you’re a driver and you have an ounce of empathy in your being, I strongly urge you to join Truckers Against Trafficking,” he says in a video message he made and has promoted himself via his YouTube channel

Coon also encouraged his carrier to train its drivers about TAT, as the organization posted on its Facebook page in December 2013. “And they said yes! We are sending materials out immediately. This is the power of the individual trucker who takes the next step in being a TAT!” 

TAT supporters include not only fleets and drivers, but also the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the National Association of Small Trucking Companies and the National Association of Truck Stop Operators.

“I never really knew what human trafficking was,” says Hopkins. “You first hear about it through movies, and you just think, that’s a big deal, but it’s all overseas.” More and more, however, Hopkins “kept hearing about it, and that it’s a problem here.”

The domestic human trafficking TAT urges drivers to target is that which primarily results in forced prostitution.

“We are just trying to get drivers to look for two things,” says TAT Administrator Laura Cyrus:
1) “Evidence of pimp control” of prostitutes working lots and other locations across the nation, which may come in the form of a “car or SUV and five to six women or girls getting out to start working the lot.”
2) “Anyone under the age of 18” doing so.

“Either of those, call the hotline,” Cyrus says. Tips made through the TAT hotline – 888-373-7888 – are funneled to national and/or local law enforcement  for follow-up. “If you have any inkling, just call.”

Truckers Against Trafficking’s hotline had received almost 800 calls by February, said TAT’s Kylla Leeburg. Other markers of growth include a new website launched in February and a newly released educational video. For more information about TAT’s impact, see the “About Us” page at TruckersAgainstTrafficking.org. On Twitter, follow @TATKylla, and search “Truckers Against Trafficking” on Facebook, to stay abreast of the organization’s efforts.

Truckers Against Trafficking’s hotline had received almost 800 calls by February, said TAT’s Kylla Leeburg. Other markers of growth include a new website launched in February and a newly released educational video. For more information about TAT’s impact, see the “About Us” links at TruckersAgainstTrafficking.org. On Twitter, follow @TATKylla, or find the organization on Facebook, to stay abreast of the organization’s efforts.

Related

Latest TAT vid: ‘I am not a lot lizard’

The latest vid from the Truckers Against Trafficking organization re-ups the outreach to the industry via an empathetic portrait of the victims of human trafficking and a clarion call against the dehumanizing "lot lizard" term.

Calls to the hotline have ballooned since TAT’s first training video in 2011. That’s  when it went full bore with outreach to the trucking industry on trafficking, releasing its first training video documentary and doing outreach at big industry events and elsewhere. Previously, the organization operated as a division of Chapter 71 Ministries, says current TAT Executive Director Kendis Paris, but became its own unaffiliated nonprofit the year Paris became its first executive director in 2011.

Overdrive TAT pollOwner-operator Hopkins first heard about the organization on trucking satellite radio in 2012. About the same time, he had a friend who used a long bicycle trek as a way to benefit The Girl Effect (thegirleffect.org), a nonprofit devoted to helping vulnerable adolescent girls in Africa and elsewhere rise out of poverty.

Hopkins thought, “If I ever get a chance to do something big … I should be able to do something bigger than myself.” Otherwise, “you’re taking a 53-foot trailer across the country, and it’s only half full,” he adds. He later said to TAT, “If you want to put your flag on my back, I’ll take it to the top.”

 

In Part 2, Hopkins takes TAT up the mountain. Read his story here. 

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  • DavidMac

    “Human trafficking” is the new prostitution? As far as I know, prostitution is illegal except in Nevada. It’s been called “the oldest profession”, but now, apparently, it’s a brand new “crisis” simply by changing its name. Seems like a solution in search of a cause . . .

  • Jimbo

    People that are uneducated about what trafficking is or what it entails is why the tragedy is continuing.

  • Will Johnston

    I have to agree with DavidMac, How much training do truck drivers need to recognize ” five to six women or girls getting out to start working the lot. or … Anyone under the age of 18” doing so??? Listen to the CB radio and you will learn all you need to know. Also, with local police departments doing “sting” operations on a regular basis, I think the promoters seek to enrich THEMSELVES. No normal person is for abuse of any person. But, with local police and EVERY OTHER government law enforcement looking at illegal immigrants, drug smuggling, and terrorist threats, why is this a special need. Oh, and then there is the Truckers Against Trafficking CRUISE. Have a great time!

  • DavidMac

    Why change the name? We used to call them “lot lizards”, or “hookers”. Now they are called “victims”? We have tens of millions of people in this country illegally. Why not do something about that?

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  • localnet

    Where is all of this human trafficking going on? I haven’t seen a lot lizard out here in years, much less a car full of them… Even the CB radio is quiet, most truck stops are so quiet anymore I have to check that my radio is on 19. Maybe I’m missing something today, but I can damn sure remember how it used to be out here, lizards out your ears. This looks like one of those scams to raise money as others have stated. If it is out here, again, I do not see or hear it.

  • localnet

    I’ve been out here 24 years, I don’t see any of this out here that this new “movement” implies. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a lizard… Back in the day you couldn’t set your brakes without having them jump on the steps. Now I have to check that my CB is on 19, as it is so quiet out here. Looks like a made up “crisis” to me. $$$$$

  • Marie Heck

    “Lot lizards” or prositutes do it because they want to. Sex trafficking is stealing children and women and forcing them into the “oldest profession”. HUGE difference. They have no say in what they do, where they go or even if they are going to eat that day. Many are runaways thinking they’ve met Mr. Wonderful and life is gonna be sunshine and rainbows. What generally happens is they win them over, start pimping them out to their “buddies”, get them addicited to drugs and then drag them wherever they see fit, including truck stops. Most are beaten, raped and threatened on a DAILY basis. So yes, they are victims. Maybe some of you should actually read about sex trafficking and how many children and adults it actually does affect in this country. Kinda makes me sick that some of you are in this “brotherhood/sisterhood” that many, including my husband and dad, are so proud of. Educate yourselves before spouting off ignorance!

  • DavidMac

    I may be a lot of things but “ignorant” isn’t one of them. If women are kidnapped (a federal offense), call the police/FBI. You seem to know a lot about this, so do you have first-hand knowledge of “human trafficking”? If so, why didn’t you report it? Seems you want others to get all riled up and force the federal government to give you grant money to “study the problem and raise awareness”. Or maybe you already have the grant . . .

  • Marie Heck

    Yes, you are pretty ignorant. First, you say why change the name…….because its completely different. That’s pretty ignorant to think that sex trafficking VICTIMS enjoy what they do. Then, you imply that I want some sort of grant money. For what, I’m not sure really. I’m not affiliated with TAT nor any other group so I don’t need grant money. You just assume and you know what they say about assuming. Do I have first hand knowledge of sex trafficking? No. But if I did, I’d call it in in a heartbeat. Which is what TAT, and other groups like them, want people to do. To bash them for trying to stop the kidnapping and selling of children and women, again, pretty ignorant. You may not think its a big deal, but it is. Watch the news, watch a documentary on it, pick up a newspaper, heck look it up online. Again, educate yourself before you speak on a subject. Otherwise you look exactly how you do, ignorant.

  • DavidMac

    Enough, troll. You got a federal grant (or your employer did) to promote this “human trafficking crisis”. The fact that all you actually do is present ad hominem attacks on-line toward anyone who disagrees with you is all the proof I need.

  • Marie Heck

    Lol thank you for proving my point!! Troll? No sir. I am a stay at home mom to a beautiful young girl and a handsome little boy. I think of them when I see young children being sold as sex slaves. I think of my niece’s and little cousins, most of which are the same age as some children being kidnapped and sold and then tossed out like garbage. Yep, you are an poor, ignorant person and I pity you. You use air qoutes a lot, which to me means you don’t believe that sex trafficking exists and that is sad. Millions of women and children being sold and traded on a daily basis and we have ignorant people like you out there who fail to see this as a problem. It’s truckers like you that really give others a bad name. I’m proud of my husband, dad, uncles, friends and family that go out there every day to do the job lots of people find “low”………..what I’m not proud of is there are people like you in that brotherhood/sisterhood. Makes me about as sick as when I think of sex trafficking. You sir, are no man. No man would sit there and liken this to prostitution. But, keep thinking that. My only hope is when you do see it, you’ll actually be man enough to do something about it. But. I won’t hold my breath on that.