New book examines FBI initiative investigating truck-driving serial killers

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As Overdrive readers are well aware, the trucking industry is vast and encompasses millions of people. In my personal experience, both as the son of a trucker and a member of trucking media, the vast majority of those people I’ve encountered are good, honest, hard-working people.

But among such a large group, there are bound to be a few bad apples.

A new book by former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi sets out to examine the worst of those bad apples, which he learned led to the creation of the Highway Serial Killings (HSK) Initiative within the FBI in 2004. The bureau publicly acknowledged the HSK for the first time in 2009.

This, for all of us, is a tough subject to broach. Why? The killings caught the attention of the FBI principally because they all had enough in common that investigators could confidently say they appeared to have been committed by truck drivers.

According to Figliuzzi’s new book, Long Haul: Hunting the Highway Serial Killers, he learned there were 850 such cases from the last few decades in FBI’s HSK Initiative database -- that is, murders that the FBI has proved or believes long-haul truck drivers committed. For those 850 cases, 200 were still active and unsolved as he conducted his research for the book, and there were 450 truck driver suspects.

Now, if someone in the general public without much, if any, knowledge of trucking reads this book, that might seem like a big number. They wouldn’t be wrong -- any number above zero when you're talking about unsolved murders and suspects is too many. But at the same time, it's a tiny piece of the overall trucking pie and shouldn’t promote fear of truck drivers writ large.

That’s also the hope of Figliuzzi. Before the book even begins, Figliuzzi dedicates the book not only to the “survivors and thrivers of the scourge of human trafficking,” who are often the victims of these murders, but he also notes that “this story is also for the stalwart American truckers who feed their own families by getting food to our tables and who likely put this book in your hand.”

In speaking with Figliuzzi recently -- hear my talk with him in this week's podcast above and/or below -- it was clear he cares about truck drivers. During his research for the book, he spent a week running 2,000 miles with a flatbed hauler to learn more about day-to-day life over-the-road. During that week sharing a cab day and night with another adult, as detailed in the book, he gained an appreciation for the time crunch drivers are often under, the challenges of tarping and chaining loads, of not exceeding weight limits on certain axles, finding something relatively healthy to eat and time to eat it, and much more.

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[Related: CVSA awareness initiative expanded in concert with Truckers Against Trafficking]

Howes logoHere's a big thanks to continued support for Overdrive Radio from the fine folks at sponsoring company Howes, longtime provider of fuel treatments like its Howes Diesel Treat anti-gel and Lifeline rescue treatment to get you through the coldest temps, likewise its all-weather Diesel Defender and Howes Multipurpose penetrating oil, among other products.Figliuzzi said he was very concerned about the potential his book had to bring about an unwarranted fear of truck drivers in general, and he makes certain throughout the text to convey the importance of trucking to the economy, while also being positive about the driver he rode with and the industry in general. “Truckers are essential workers in our economy,” he said. “They should be -- and I say this in the book -- they should be paid more, they should be trained more, and we should treat them as the essential workers that they are. We take them for granted, but most of them are simply trying to put food on their family's table by bringing food to our table.”

He added that the book is “only talking about a tiny fraction of [drivers] that kill.”

One of Figliuzzi’s goals in researching and writing the book was to answer the question of nature vs. nurture -- that is, does the often lonely, difficult lifestyle of trucking create killer tendencies within certain disturbed individuals, or do individuals with killer tendencies tend to gravitate toward the trucking lifestyle?

As you’ll hear in the podcast, there isn’t really a clear-cut answer. Life OTR might be more attractive to people with the tendencies of serial killers in general, but Figliuzzi said he “won't go over the line as saying, 'Well, there are killer truckers who sign up to be a trucker with the express purpose of using that profession to kill people.' I think there's little to none of that. More likely,” he notes, crimes of opportunity, of a fashion, result at the hands of disturbed individuals. “They get into the job, they understand now how it works, the isolation. It dawns on them that they, pretty much as long as they get their load from point A to point B in a relative amount of time, they can do almost anything and get away with it.”

In addition to studying the culture of truck driving in the book, Figliuzzi also spends a considerable amount of time telling the stories of trafficking victims, survivors of violence, and how they end up in and got out of very difficult situations and circumstances. We also talk about just that in this week's podcast. Take a listen: 

Frank Figliuzzi's Long Haul: Hunting the Highway Serial Killers is available wherever books are sold. It’s also available in an audiobook version, read by Figliuzzi himself.

As also detailed in the podcast, Figliuzzi hopes to inspire many to continue to be eyes and ears OTR, noting during the talk the Truckers Against Trafficking organization and all that organization’s done to marshal working owner-operators and drivers against sex crimes and violence. The organization was in part instrumental in establishing and promoting to the industry the National Human Trafficking Hotline well more than a decade ago now -- a good point of contact to this day for reporting crimes in progress, things that just don’t look right out on the road as well. That’s 888-3737-888.

More about Truckers Against Trafficking at the org's website.

[Related: Marroquin brothers' journey from Guatemala to U.S. trucking, now as owner-operators]

Transcript

Frank Figliuzzi: But you know, overall message, truckers great, killers bad. There you go.

Todd Dills: That was the voice of former FBI counterintelligence director Frank Figliuzzi, giving us a sort of final message he hoped to impart to the trucking audience with the conversation you'll hear today on the podcast. It’s Overdrive news editor Matt Cole’s interview with Figliuzzi about his new book, “Long Haul: Hunting the Highway Serial Killers.” I’m Todd Dills, and this one is no doubt a tough subject, particularly for an audience of trucking professionals. We’ll have to get past the fact of Frank Figliuzzi’s frequent shorthand use of the often honorific term trucker in reference to various perpetrators of violence in cab and out along the nation’s highways. For instance, reading the first parts of the book myself, I couldn't help but keep thinking over and over and over again, ‘Man. Frank, did you ever consider calling these folks what they are? Killers, maybe? Or quite disturbed steering wheel holders?’

Deserving of the trucker label? They are not, that's sure.

But the subject matter is certainly engrossing and deserving. And truckers do play a huge part in combating the central problem, namely sex trafficking, that leads to so many of the killings logged in the FBI's Highway Serial Killings database, many of them unsolved. The book nonetheless offers a window into Figliuzzi’s investigative nature as he attempts to better understand trucking itself under the tutelage of a flatbedder. He spent a week's worth of time running with likewise a myriad of trafficking victims, survivors of violence at the hands of various perpetrators who told him their stories. Speaking directly to truckers, too, Figliuzzi hopes to inspire many to continue to be eyes and ears OTR noting during the talk the Truckers Against Trafficking organization and all that organization has done to marshal working owner operators and drivers against sex crimes and violence. The organization was in part instrumental in establishing the National Human Trafficking Hotline well more than a decade ago. A good point of contact to this day for reporting crimes in progress and things that just don't look right out on the road. That's 888-37-3788, easy to remember. 888-37-3788 and it turns out Overdrive was the first trucking specific outlet Figliuzzi had spoken to since the book came out, as he told Matt Cole.

Frank Figliuzzi: It is my first trucking industry talk, and I, as you can imagine, there was some trepidation about, well, you know, you know, a couple of folks on my social media were like, are you bad mouthing truckers? Well, okay, I'm like, you haven't read my book. But I want to get deep into that and also, I want to hear more from truckers.

Todd Dills: There's plenty more to chew on where that came from in this episode. And as noted at the top, he gets to a central part of the message.

Frank Figliuzzi: Ultimately, overall message, truckers great, killers bad.

Todd Dills: Yes, as I've said before in another podcast, I think today the end is in the beginning, yet lies far ahead. So keep tuned for more after the break.

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Here we go.

Frank Figliuzzi: My name is Frank Figliuzzi. I served 25 years as an FBI special agent. I worked all over the United States, helping to lead squads and eventually lead entire field divisions, around the country. Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland, Ohio. at least four or five tours through FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. And I retired as the head of counterintelligence for the FBI. So my title was assistant director, and I led all espionage investigations. But throughout my career, I've worked and or supervised virtually everything the FBI does. post retirement after 25 years, I decided to write a book called the FBI Way inside the bureau's Code of Excellence. That was roughly three, years ago. To my utter amazement, it became a national bestseller. There was tremendous interest in the FBI at the time of the book's release because the FBI was really being criticized by some folks in Washington, and we had January 6 happen at the US Capitol. So people were keenly interested in anything they could learn about how the FBI operates.

That book provided that with that book. Sometimes if you have a successful book, you get another book offer. And here's what happened with me. I kind of prided myself in my FBI career about knowing all of the corners and nooks and crannies of the FBI. But when it came to the FBI's highway serial killings initiative, what happened was I ended up having a conversation with a woman who said oh, you know, she works for the FBI. I said, oh, what do you do there? And she said, well, I run the FBI's highway serial killings initiative. And I said, okay, I think you got me there. what is that? Now, she was a crime analyst in a behavioral analysis unit at Quantico, Virginia, where the FBI academy sits. And she said, well, here are the numbers. 850 murders alongside our nation's highways in just the past few decades. 200 of those murders are considered active and unsolved. These murders are almost entirely of women and largely of women who are sex trafficking victims. And when I asked her, how many suspects are you looking at in the long haul trucking community? Because they are confident this is the work of long haul truckers, by and large. She said, we are looking at 450 suspects right now. So with that, I said, I think I have my next book and I've got to figure this out. So the FBI can only tell you so much about pending cases, particularly when those cases belong to police departments, not FBI offices. They're murderers. So I said, okay, I'll do it myself. And I said, I'll get out there and learn about these cultures. I've always, even since I was a kid, I was kind of like, hey, what goes on in those big rigs? What's it like being a long hauler? What's the life like? Do they have families? What do they make? When do they eat? How long are they on the road? I put my investigator hat back on and I went out on the road. I drove over 2000 miles in a big rig. I happened to ride flatbed. and I enjoyed that. I didn't enjoy so much sleeping in the top bunk of the sleeper berth and doing most of my eating, and by the way, most of my bio breaks, inside the cab. But that's the life. That's life, on the road. And I learned an incredible amount. One of the things I was impressed by, of course, was, the technology today in trucking, the e log and the trucker app and the cameras. And it's high tech stuff. And your e-log knows all and tells all and some of it's not good. Sometimes. What does it mean to have adverse conditions or, you know, did you really have bad weather there or what's delaying you? But then the kind of the mind engagement and physical engagement of, flatbedding was impressive to me because, you know, we get a physical workout regularly as we're tarping and chaining or strapping the load. Right. It's work those rolled up tarps are 100 pounds each. And if you're bringing chains out, one of our loads was suicide coil, you know, rolled steel. And if you don't chain that right and chain it enough, so you got to figure out points of securement that are federally mandated based on your size load. can we even gas up fully today, or will that put us overweight? I mean, I was blown away by that stuff.

Matt Cole: I think everybody out there has some sort of preconceived notion about truck drivers.

Todd Dills: That was the voice there of Overdrive News Editor Matt Cole.

Matt Cole: From your work, especially in law enforcement, obviously, you weren't, you know, working with truckers directly. So what was your, what was your thought about truck drivers before you started doing this and actually got to ride along?

Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, I mean, I think, first of all, I didn't pay enough attention or know enough about the different kinds of trucking. I think that that caught my attention. I mean, there, I get into it in the book. I mean, there is kind of a. I don't want to say a caste system. Certainly not. But we're talking about very different drivers and, very different trucks. I mean, you've got your, your wide load, your heavy load, you know, the rest of us know it by the pole car out in front, you know, and you realize, oh, I know what that pole is for. Now, if that pole hits a bridge, there's going to be a problem. But, you know, the guys and gals who carry wind turbines or the wing of an aircraft, the hazardous material licenses that are necessary, the tanker trucks, the reefer trucks.

I did not know that a refrigerated truck driver is part of the climate control for that load. They're not just driving. If that temperature, humidity, moisture, is not right, and that load of produce is going to go bad, they've got to make adjustments. There are sensors back there. and then, you know, with regard to low boys, you know, and why we even have low boys and who gets more money. And, I mean, I, you know, the trucker I was driving with, he was making six figures. but then, you know, it's also kind of. I was kind of a fatherly figure because he was in his late twenties, and I'm an old guy. And, you know, when he said, well, yeah, I'm a contract employee. I go, do you have. Do you have health insurance? And he said, no, no, I'm required to have, you know, workers comp type stuff. If I get injured on the job, I've got to get that. But no.

And I said, you know, and it was all I could do as a father of my own to not like, kind of slap him in the face, say, you're stupid. What happens if you have appendicitis or whatever, you know, but there's that. So that, you know, the percentage of drivers that are, that are not real employees, right? And so, you know, he would, he would kind of brag to me about, well, I make so much more money than the big corporate drivers. And I. Then I'm realizing, well, they're employees and they've got kids and they've got dental and vision and health and paid vacation. So, you know, don't tell me about how you make much more money. You know, you gotta look at this differently. this, look, the unhealthy side of things. My God, is it sedentary? And it is so hard to eat healthy.

And there's a dark side, of course, as I dive into this research on the killers, which, thank God, are only a tiny fraction of people, but, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the economic impact of trucking. Your people know that, your viewers and listeners. But I mean, last year, about $875 billion in gross freight revenue for the industry. Grocery stores would run out of groceries in three days if truckers stopped trafficking. and I was also. The economics on the road of, the marriage between Walmart and long haul trucking was fascinating to me. Right. The happiness when you hear, maybe often from your trucker app, there's a Walmart coming up that has trucker parking. Hey. And we go and we get our supplies because we're going to cook some in the truck. The driver I drove with actually was a graduate of the culinary Institute of America. So he had been a chef. So we worked cooking when we could, in the truck. Then, just the economics of things like, we hauled drywall. Our first load we picked up was at a gypsum factory, and we hauled 47,000 pounds of drywall for the housing industry.

The next day was lumber that was turned into flooring for construction. we did aluminum rods. And, I get on the Internet and I say, where are we going? Where are these aluminum rods going? Well, my God, we delivered them to the, a department of defense munitions factory and they were turned into shell casings. this was fascinating to me, and, oh, as someone who worked counterintelligence in the FBI, we picked up, I think it was in Kentucky or Indiana, huge steel factory. I mean, this went on for miles this factory, and we picked up a suicide coil. and, I noticed that it's rainy and it's cold, and the parking lot is filled with suicide coils exposed to the elements, some of them oxidizing. And I'm like, okay, so why do we have to tarp our load? Why are the instructions to tarp our load if all of these are standing out in the elements? Well, you know what the answer was. it's intellectual property protection. The company's competitors and foreign powers would love to get a scrape of that suicide coil, that steel composite, while its on the road and try to figure out what the manufacturing process is and certainly follow it to where its going. I mean, thats right up my alley. Trade, secret protection. Right. I thought, wow, im kind of protecting us from the Chinese intelligence services. It was bizarre. so it was cool stuff like that as well.

And the darker stuff, of course. Look, the anonymous surveys of truckers show that, and I've gotten some pushback from this, by the way, on truckers. Ten, percent of truckers say they drink alcohol every day. 20% say they binge drink five or more drinks of alcohol at a time. 44% of long haul truckers are exhibiting symptoms of major clinical depression.

Matt Cole: Yeah, the statistics there aren't, aren't, aren't very flattering, for sure.

Todd Dills: No, indeed. If surveys that Figliuzzi notes can be extrapolated reliably to the entirety of the professional driving world. Cole then made note of the quote unquote contractor employee 1099 driver relationship Figliuzzi’s guide through the flatbedding niche had with his particular company and how problematic that can be, if not a true owner operator/lessor relationship. The flatbedder Figliuzzi ran with is called Mike in the book.

Frank Figliuzzi: He's working his tail off. And, in fact, when he agreed to let me ride along, you know, I think the first words out of his mouth were, you, better not slow me down. We better not, we better not lose a load. And I made a deal with him. I said, if I slow you down and you lose a load, I'll make up the difference. And quite the opposite happened. He realized that I could help load and strap, and we moved faster.

Matt Cole: Yeah. And the only group of truckers out there that might push back on Mike's, claim of flatbedders being the most badass would be the live livestock haulers. I think they may have something to say about that.

Frank Figliuzzi: You want to talk about pressure? Get there safely with no injuries to anybody or any animal that you're hauling. I am with you on that.

Matt Cole: You know, getting back to the book a little bit, during writing and publishing, did you ever have a concern that, you know, it would bring, some unwarranted fear, to the trucking industry, to truck drivers from the general public?

Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, I was actually very concerned about that, and I. So what steps did I take here? Well, for people who are just going to hear about the book, see the cover of the book, and they're in, they love a trucker, or they are a trucker. Yeah, they're going to go, this sounds horrible. This, isn't good for us. But if they pick up the book or see all of my, now, I don't know, dozens of national television interviews on this book, they will know that I have partially dedicated the book to the stalwart American trucker. I feature the driver that I rode with. I say nothing but good things about him and the industry generally.

And I go on and on about the economic impact. Truckers are essential workers in our economy. They should be, and I say this in the book, they should be paid more, they should be trained more, and we should treat them as the essential workers that they are. we take them for granted, but most of them are simply trying to put food on their family's table by bringing food to our table. I even point out in the book that if you're, if you're holding my book in your hand, it was brought to you by a trucker. So, that's in there. We're only talking about a tiny fraction of truckers that kill. And, there's no escaping, though, the fact that the number one profession of serial killers is long haul trucker. Nothing even comes close to second.

Matt Cole: You know, one of the big questions you attempt to answer in the book, you know, are serial killers drawn to the trucking profession, or does the trucking profession kind of create that mindset? Or is it a little bit of both? Without giving the whole book away, you know, what can you say about what you found there?

Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, I wish there were kind of an easy, binary answer. But this is the age old dilemma of nature or nurture. And I ask the question in my book first. I mean, there's a huge body of research generally on how serial killers come to be not just trucker killers. you know, it's the same formula. And, and yes, there is some combination of formula out there, genetics plays a huge role in many cases. Some of this happens in the womb before birth with some really bad DNA and genetics. Some of it has to do with mental illness. In many, many of these cases, including some of the trucker cases, there is horrific abuse and trauma in early childhood, often, physical abuse. And so you've got this deadly combination of bad genetics. The brain synapses aren't firing exactly correctly.

You've got the abusive childhood and trauma, often at the hands of a parental figure, often a female parental, figure. Why do I say that? In the case of the truckers, because the violence is being, acted out upon women victims. So some of this is projection. you know, hey, even subconsciously I'm acting out against my mother, when I kill these women. So then, so you've got this personality. And even though we keep hearing about Ted Bundy being this handsome, charming guy, the reality is that that's not typical for serial killers. They tend to be far more antisocial, anti human, quite honestly, can't stay in relationships. They get attracted to the job because it's isolating. It affords them the peace and quiet and freedom that they want. But also they know, they know they've got some issues and they don't need other people looking at them and critiquing them. And trucking does that for them.

But then where I fall short, where I won't go over the line, is saying, well, there are killer truckers who sign up to be a trucker with the express purpose of using that profession to kill people. I think there's little to none of that more likely. And this is happening in some interviews that have been done of serial killer truckers. They get into the job, they understand now how it works, the isolation. It dawns on them that they pretty much as long as they get their load from point a to point b, in a relative amount of time, they can do almost anything and get away with it. I mean, what's happening in the FBI's highway serial killings initiative is the truckers are grabbing a victim in one jurisdiction, they're raping and or killing her in a second jurisdiction, they're dumping the remains in a third jurisdiction. This is a perfect moving 18 wheel crime scene. and that is the challenge for law enforcement, but it's also the attraction.

Matt Cole: There was one note that I think it was in the epilogue, potentially, but, you said that, I think it was a quote from somebody and they said that if autonomous, basically it was talking about autonomous trucks and if the truck driver job went away, that, basically these people would find another serial killings wouldn't just stop happening. Essentially.

Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah. Thank you for pointing that out, because I didn't, if you can tell already, this isn't your typical true crime book, where, hey, there's blood, gore. Scary. Thanks. Have a nice day.

I had to go deep into cultures, and then I had to ask some hard questions, like, what happens if we do get to the day where there's driverless trucks? I mean, your listeners know better than I, but there are stretches of highway in Arizona and Texas right now where they are experimenting with, autonomous trucks. Thank God there's a qualified driver in the sheet ready to go. and there's a follow card, all that good stuff, but we're going to get there. There's going to be a need for fewer truckers. So where do the serial killers go? If trucking is the number one profession, where do they go? Well, my answer to that is serial killers don't stop. They don't stop. They don't stop killing. They don't. And so people, when I do a lot of these interviews, I'll get asked the inevitable question, how many serial killers are out there? This is still happening. And I go, listen, you didn't pay attention to me. There's 200 unsolved murders. There's 450 suspects. Yes, there are. Still, they don't stop. So, you know, they might become impaired. They might go to prison on something else. They might be disabled, but otherwise, they're not stopping. So where do they go? If we have autonomous truck driving? I think it's where everything else goes in our society. It's where the grooming and recruitment for trafficking is going. It's where the advertising for sex, for money has gone. It's going online. And so what do I mean by that? I, think we'll see. Serial killers gravitate toward online dating. I, think they'll abuse, like Facebook purchase. What's it called when you. You've got something for sale on Facebook Marketplace. And, you know, hey, meet me in the Walmart parking lot. I'll sell you my motorbike or whatever. Yeah, dating, online sales, it's going to go online. That's where it's likely headed because serial killers simply don't stop.

Matt Cole: What did you find out that, is, like, the motivating factors?

Frank Figliuzzi: Well, we talked about some of those commonalities that are across the board on serial killers. And there's some irony here, because they're not so different than the commonalities we see in the trafficking victims and how they fell into the trap of trafficking. You're talking about early childhood trauma in the form of the victim. The trafficking victim. It's often unwanted sexual touching that begins this trauma. But then there's a load of trauma in the family. by the way, this applies to both the trucker and the victim.

Domestic violence, abuse, death, of a close loved one. It could be a brother, it could be a mother, major illness in the family that causes the parents to kind of walk away or something. So, similarly, in the trucker community, we're seeing the abuse that I feature. A trucker called the vampire trucker. While he was never arrested for murder, he kidnapped and raped at least a half a dozen female victims. Why is he called the vampire trucker? Because he thinks he's a vampire. And he drilled his teeth into fangs. He also liked to take a power drill to the teeth of his victims. So when I look at his background, you asked me about motivation. Timothy Buffettis had horrific abusive childhood. is that an excuse? Of course not. Of course not. But it is helpful in understanding how these people are made.

Todd Dills: Frank Figliuzzi noted appropriate levels of trucking company caution around hiring, particularly when it comes to past violence offenders, and how sex trafficking victims stories also illustrated a greater propensity for violence among perps with serious alcohol problems. In addition to Figliuzzi’s extended narratives of his time with the flatbedder he hauled with in the book, survivor tales also predominate, offering opportunity to learn for law enforcement and the eyes and ears of the road, professional truckers themselves. It's no coincidence that the time period of the highway serial killings initiatives first public release, about 15 years ago, coincided roughly with the rise of the truckers against trafficking Nonprofit organization embraced by much of the professional truck community as a bulwark against organized and other sex trafficking all around the nation. Likewise, with a strong educational component to it.

Frank Figliuzzi: The really good things. look, I'd love to see a little anti trafficking module inserted in the CDL classes. I know people are going to roll their eyes and go, oh, another. Another half hour of something I don't need to hear in training. But you do need to hear it. And there's some success happening with an organization called Truckers against trafficking, or taT. They train truckers to be the eyes and ears of the anti trafficking movement. And every year they give out hero Trucker awards because hero truckers do rescue people. It makes perfect sense. So all of those are kind of somewhat solutions that I offer in my book, as I do. I have similar suggestions for law enforcement to get better at what they do.

Matt Cole: And then when talking to, victims and those in law enforcement that are investigating these crimes and things, did you find there was more of a correlation to company drivers being more susceptible to this or the independent owner operators that own their own equipment, or did it matter?

Frank Figliuzzi: Great question. Because the investigator in me had to ask that question. If you tell me I have 450 suspects for murders, I got to narrow that down. That’s too much. Theres too much data to collect. Imagine investigators having to go to every trucking company, I mean, of every size, and say, hey, we had a dead body, on I 40, and I need every truck, of yours thats, paid for gas or stopped and got weighed or had this route. Oh, the body is about six months old now. I need that for six months. Oh, my God. You're waiting through that. And so you got to narrow this down. So I do ask the question, who's more likely to kill? And, I have theories. Flatbedders are very mentally and physically engaged. They're getting a release. They're getting a workout. They have to talk to people. the other end of the spectrum, the dry banner. I wonder. There's a lot of isolation there then, you know, is it corporate? They're very heavily tracked. You know that, My God, are they. There's cameras facing inside the truck. There's cameras facing outside the truck. You know, you call your boss and say, hey, I'm stuck in traffic. Yeah, I know. I can see that. Oh, my gosh. Wow. Okay.

Here's the thing, though. As soon as I get close to that theory. Well, can't. It's probably less likely to corp than corp to be corporate truckers. Let's. Let's. Let's put them on the bottom and prioritize the owner operators, the small companies. Let's do that. Well, then I find cases where a corporate driver, on his mandatory downtime, has parked his rig at the truck stop, gotten in an Uber or a rental car, and gone out and killed women. So you can track that truck all you want. It's sitting in the parking lot. So, yes. Do I still have this theory? Yes, I think it's less likely to be the corporate guy or gal. Well, we don't have, ah, a lot of women killers. but be careful about conclusive theories, because there's always one that will prove you wrong?

Matt Cole: On the surface, it may seem like this question is pretty self explanatory, but I think there's a deeper element to it for sure that you get into. What is it about trucking and, the nature of this business that makes it so difficult? The job of, the HSK initiative to investigate these crimes.

Frank Figliuzzi: We've already talked a little about the voluminous data that has to be collected for a single murder. Often no id on this victim. You've got a medical examiner or coroner who's going to come in and say, well, this body's been decomposing for x number of weeks. You know, you cringe when you hear that as an investigator, because now you're going, oh, okay, I've got to go backwards in time. X number of weeks, figure out all the travelers, all the truck stops, all the truck companies. You know, you need, almost need a supercomputer to crunch all this data. That's part of it.

But what does the HSK do? Look, it's a database, and it's crime analysts at the FBI who know what they're doing. And the technology can work for us, because if you. As that police department enters all the required data, it's something like 200 questions about their crime, their crime scene, into the FBI's HSK database. There is some magic that can happen, and take that investigative burden off of that detective who has a hundred other things to do. and by the way, you know, they're not really prioritized sometimes. There's no. In most cases, there's no family members that even know their loved one is missing. They're not at the police department pounding their fist on the desk, demanding answers. They don't know anything. no one's championing their cause. The local paper might have a paragraph that a body was found, you know, near, exit 37. That's it. And so if the good news is if the department enters their data and you might say, what are those 200 magic questions? What's that?

It's crime scene, what it looks like, and it's victimology. Who is the victim? So, in other words, where did you. Where was the body placed exactly? Under tree, in water? In a culvert? On the curb? Wrapped in a blanket? Or not naked or not partially naked? Top of the body, bottom of the body, raped pre death or post mortem? Was the body mutilated? Mutilated how? With a knife. Where was the victim's clothing? Torn and used to choke or gag her. Give us a photo of the knot in that clothing that was used and tied around her neck or put down her throat. what color hair, what height was she, what position was she in? On and on. Jewelry. Jewelry taken or not. Signs of jewelry being ripped off her neck or not. small little signs that, a taser might have been used on her or a stun gun was used to incapacitate her. Did you look for it? Did the coroner look for it? All of this signs of recent drug use. All of it. Why? Because the computer and the crime analysts will know if they've seen that before somewhere. And it might be they saw it ten years ago. Ago, and they'll say, my God, this is the exact same crime scene that happened halfway around the country ten years ago. It's the same killer. That's the kind of work that the HSK does.

Matt Cole: You know, last year on Overdrive, we did a series of stories, called Trucking’s State of Surveillance. And, you know, it kind of dove into the different tracking and the cameras and, you know, all these different things that are in trucks now. Much to many drivers’ chagrin. I mean, they consider the trucks their living quarters. They don't want to be spied on all the time. But at the same time, you know, obviously there's arguments those technologies exist for a reason. What are the benefits to law enforcement? And with those technologies .... Do you feel like that's cut down on the instances of highway killings?

Frank Figliuzzi: I do think the numbers are beginning to, to slide. It's hard to acknowledge that. It's hard to track the numbers. Here's why. In the days when all of this was happening in the parking lot at the truck stop, you could grab a surveillance camera shot. People, had. There were some witnesses of just who was working the lot. It's moved online, so now it's happening in the massage parlor or the cd motel nearby. Makes it harder to say, yes, this was a driver. This was a truck driver. This one was a truck driver. We don't, we don't know that. We don't know that when that body is found, in the hotel room or the motel room. So it's hard to tell. But, yes, my gut tells me technology and tracking are, having a chilling effect on killers. I wish I could tell you that it's making it easier to solve the cases. So, it's interesting, I am a privacy advocate.

People might think, oh, God, an FBI guy is going to want people to, you know, tracked, with a chip under their skin. It's not true. I, you know, my career was about protecting and preserving the constitution of the United States. And so, you know, I kind of liken this, too. When you rent an Airbnb home, on your vacation. Yes, it's not your home, it's the owner's home. Yes, they should have security mechanisms and cameras outside the home, but, you better not mess with my privacy inside that home. So, similarly with truckers, I see the discomfort with having a camera that's inward facing. I would love to have an example for law enforcement where I could say, hey, that inward facing camera that saw this happening, that saw this victim passenger. I don't have that case. I don't have it. Yes, tracking your speed, your. Your, you know, all kinds of things should be tracked, but, yeah, that inward facing camera, look, if I could prove it solved crimes, I'd be all for it. I can't prove that.

Matt Cole: And the trucking industry's argument for that camera is typically training. you know, they can see if the driver takes his eyes off the road. You know, they're AI enabled and stuff.

Frank Figliuzzi: So maybe if you've got a probationary period. Right. Say, look, for your first six months, we're going to do this, because we got to know what the hell you're doing. Are you watching movies while you're driving? Which, by the way, I have seen, Do you have alcohol in the truck? Which, again, the mystery for me, when we stopped into this shiny, shiny, brand new big truck stop, and I think Racine, Wisconsin, they had a liquor department. Okay, wait a minute. You can buy a handle size of vodka and do what with that? You're really not supposed to have that in the truck, are you? And, they can check that out, but do it during a probationary period, you know, six months, and take the camera out. If you got a bad trucker, then you take him out.

Matt Cole: You know, I think I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the. Basically the other half of the book you wrote, you know, and where you analyzed the actual victims here. And I think it's important that we do acknowledge that they are victims, you know, even though they're in not, so legal trade necessarily at some, depending on your jurisdiction. But, you know, they're still the ones that are being found on the side of the road, lifeless. Can you kind of talk about your research into the victims here, the victimology? I know there's a lot of similarities, and, you know, what you learned from victim survivors.

Frank Figliuzzi: So first I learned to throw out any preconceived notions that I had about who gets trafficked. So if you're sitting there thinking, well, this. This would never happen to a young person that I know, or, you know, a friend of a friend or my network, think again. I interviewed victims that, one was a preacher's daughter, good values in that home. one was a very bright young, lady who went to college, from the upper midwest. You know, she even, you know, she had some uncles, that were in law enforcement.

I mean, throw out those preconceived notions. It can happen to people, you know. and I saw, you know, since the experts told me what to look for in terms of their stories, and I interviewed these folks, and I started checking the boxes in my mind. Yep, there's that early childhood trauma. Yep, there's that marijuana at a really young age, usually from an older sibling or older friends. There's that bad boyfriend. There's another bad boyfriend. There's the pressure to use hard drugs. There's the major traumas in the household. So, it's there across socioeconomic and gender and race lines. What else did I learn? The stories are compelling. I don't cry easily. I think I've seen it all. But I talked to this one victim. I mean, the trauma in her life. Repeatedly repeated rapes, often while she's in a drug induced stupor to deal with the trauma of being trafficked. the judgment that goes out the window when you're, ah, a drug addict was, astounding to me.

And then the positive stories that you can survive this. And I think I was looking for a magic button that gets pushed for people to get out of addiction and trafficking. I'm looking for this. What's the magic formula? Well, the experts told me and the victims told me, no, no, it's. You've got to decide. I'm done with this. The so called rock bottom. And sometimes it takes three, four stints in rehab, sometimes more. Almost always m multiple tries. But at some point, that person has to say, I'm done. I'm, out. I can't do it anymore. And then the key is, if there's any magic here that they know that someone is available for them, there are resources available. Right? So that's where these successful resource programs come in. Some of them run by the victims I interviewed, who become leaders of resource centers. And I physically went and visited a place called Starfish Place in Phoenix, Arizona, a joint venture of the city of Phoenix and Arizona State University. It's a residential campus for young, women who themselves have young children who are escaping trafficking. And the education and the jobs and the underwriting of the subsidizing of their housing is fantastic.

And they're doing great work there. So I do end the book on a positive note.

Matt Cole: And I thought it was interesting in reading the book that, you know, I didn't know a whole lot about the sex trafficking industry, and particularly with the truck stop workers. It was interesting to see the different layers, the hierarchy of kind of like in trucking. You know, there's, there's the bottom of the barrel, then there's the, you know, the other women that kind of control the, those under them. And, you know, I thought that was all really interesting that I had, you know, had no idea about before.

Frank Figliuzzi: Well, me too. And I had to, I had to learn, for example, that there are three general work styles in trafficking. One is pimp controlled. And by the way, there are two kinds of pimps. There's a gorilla pimp and a finesse pimp. And then the second category after pimp controlled is the renegade. The renegade has usually had it with the pimps broken away or never had a pimp in the first place, and is out there either on their own or with, a friend, doing the sex for money transactions. And then the third category is the outlaw. The outlaw. There will be no sex. There will be a crime, there will be a robbery, and theyre going to take your cash. and then I get into the question, just as I did with the truckers, which one of them is more likely to be killed? Your immediate reaction might be, well, that outlaw that's ripping off the trucker, that sounds like a problem, in terms of violence. But, you know, it's usually not because they have a really good plan. They're professional criminals. They're working with somebody, and they know to get in and get out. so, again, preconceived notion. Oh, well, it's probably not the pimp controlled victim because there are eyes on her. The pimps watching. The bottom girl is watching. That's the term for a kind of a, the pimps assistant, who's running the stable of women. Well, there are plenty of pimp controlled murder, victims. So, you know, but I get into that because I have to, because I'm an investigator. Yeah.

Matt Cole: And ultimately, the entire book was, it was very interesting read. I thoroughly enjoyed going through it. It was a quick read, but tough at times. I mean, there's some. There's some hard stories in there to read, for sure.

Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, it's dark in places. And imagine the work of a crime analyst on this program on HSK at FBI Quantico. Imagine they come in and do this all day. You know, they can eat their ham sandwich for lunch in front of a computer screen with a horrific crime scene photo. You know, that's tough work. It's tough work. But thank God, there's some of the heroes in the book, for sure. I hope a lot of things come from this book. in the trafficking area, in police departments deciding to enter their case in victim families demanding police departments enter their cases in the FBI's HSK database. Maybe someone listens to the audible book and says, I think I'm being recruited into trafficking and decides to not let that happen. and I hope truckers buy this book. And, there isn't. There is the audio version. I read it myself. I know since I've been on the road. I know, you do a lot of audiobooks. I mean, boy, some truckers, they read far more books than I read on a regular basis. And, you know, if you want to hear my dulcet tones, reading long haul hunting the highway serial killers, it's out there for you as well.

Matt Cole: All right, Frank. Well, just to kind of put a bow on everything, or are there any, last thoughts you have for the truck drivers, the trucking companies out there?

Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, I mean, you know, truckers are essential workers. They need to get paid more. More benefits, more health programs. I'd love to see more health incentives. what does that look like? You know, better insurance rates for hours of exercise or healthy eating. Companies do that. Yes, it's tough on the road, but let's try to get a healthier cadre of people better vetting in the second chance programs for hiring know who you're hiring. but, you know, overall message, truckers great, killers bad. There you go.

Todd Dills: The end is in the beginning. Again, here's big thanks this week to Overdrive News Editor Matt Cole for bringing Figliuzzi’s story to us. And he and I both mentioned it. But if you're not aware of the truckers against trafficking organization, spend some time with resources at the organization's website. That's tatnonprofit.org. tatnonprofit.org. and keep in mind the national Human Trafficking Hotline number to report incidents of suspected trafficking. It's easy to remember. 888-3737-888. Big thanks for listening.