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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-21-001    Date:  Autumn 2020
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-21-001
Issue No: Vol. 84 No. 3
Date: Autumn 2020


Internet Watch

Combating Human Trafficking

by Nicole Bambas and Maha Alkhateeb

A logo for USDOT's human trafficking campaign that says, "Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking." overlayed on a blurred view of a semi-trailer from the shoulder of a highway.

Nearly 25 million people globally are coerced or deceived into sexual or labor exploitation situations that they cannot escape. The limited transportation-related data available indicate that all modes of transportation are used to transport victims. A 2014 Urban Institute labor trafficking study of 122 survivors found that 71 percent were trafficked by flight and 52 percent were trafficked by car or van. A 2018 Polaris study of 104 survivors found trafficking across all modes: taxis (47 percent), airplanes (38 percent), public buses (33 percent), subway (19 percent), long distance buses (19 percent), long distance rail (11 percent), ridesharing (9 percent), and cruise ships (3 percent).

To address the intersection of human trafficking and transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation works with public and private sector stakeholders to empower transportation employees and the traveling public to recognize and report possible instances of human trafficking. Counter-trafficking information, resources, and tools are available through USDOT's human trafficking website at www.transportation.gov/stophumantrafficking.

"The transportation sector is uniquely positioned to help fight human trafficking, and the Department has launched numerous initiatives to help transportation employers train their workers on how to detect and prevent it," says Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

"Public and private stakeholders across all modes of transportation can benefit from USDOT's numerous website resources to increase partnerships, raise awareness among employees and the traveling public, apply for funding, and advance their collective counter-trafficking efforts," says David Short, USDOT's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs.

Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking

Site visitors begin with a video that highlights the Department's counter-trafficking efforts and calls transportation stakeholders to join USDOT's Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking (TLAHT) partnership (www.transportation.gov/TLAHT).

TLAHT is the Department's initiative to combat human trafficking in the transportation sector by maximizing the industry's collective impact through leadership, training and education, policy development, public awareness, and information-sharing and analysis. In January 2020, Secretary Chao brought a renewed focus to this important initiative, challenging the transportation industry to commit to "100 Pledges in 100 Days." Transportation leaders across the country heeded her call, and more than 200 signatories—double the original goal—committed to joining the Department on the frontlines of helping to ensure the safety of the traveling public. Links are provided for interested stakeholders to join TLAHT's 500+ partners and take action at www.transportation.gov/TLAHT/TakeAction.

Supporting Counter-Trafficking

To support transportation stakeholders in their counter-trafficking efforts, USDOT established grants and an award. The site links to grants that support counter-trafficking efforts through driver's license standards and programs in addition to transit public safety, including human trafficking. Information about the Department's annual $50,000 Combating Human Trafficking in Transportation Impact Award is also included. The award aims to incentivize individuals and entities to think creatively in developing innovative solutions to combat human trafficking in the transportation industry.

The website notes the Department's counter-trafficking trainings for transportation employees. USDOT's 54,000 employees are trained every 3 years to recognize and report human trafficking, and the Department also developed a suite of trainings for the aviation, transit, rail, and motor coach industries in coordination with several partners and stakeholders. To date, 47 aviation industry partners have trained more than 100,000 employees under the Blue Lightning Initiative, and Amtrak has trained its 20,000 employees.

As raising public awareness is a key element in combating human trafficking, USDOT's human trafficking site includes links to the Department's multimodal logos, an indicator flyer, and print-ready posters. The Department also co-branded and facilitated the placement of public awareness campaigns by TLAHT partners at transportation hubs and billboards across the United States, including airports and Amtrak stations.

An awareness poster for USDOT's Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking campaign shows a woman in a van with a sign reading, "I can't escape, they took my passport and I.D. Help." The poster message reads, "What you see could set someone free," and includes the hotline phone number and website.

A key resource for all transportation stakeholders, the final report of the USDOT Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking (www.transportation.gov/stophumantrafficking/acht) includes counter-trafficking recommendations that all transportation stakeholders can implement and useful tools such as a model strategy with associated policies and protocols, a proclamation, training and awareness best practices, quick implementation guides by mode, and sample materials.

The site also spotlights legislation that has expanded USDOT's authority to combat human trafficking and touches on the Department's international engagement efforts on the issue.

USDOT's human trafficking site is available at www.transportation.gov/stophumantrafficking. Future updates will include expanded resources and tools to cover additional modes of transportation.

An awareness poster for USDOT's Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking campaign shows a woman in a subway car with a sign reading, "My family doesn't know where I am. They lied to me. Help me." The poster message reads, "What you see could set someone free," and includes the hotline phone number and website.
Print-ready awareness posters like these are available to download from USDOT's human trafficking website, along with other resources and materials.

Nicole Bambas is a senior policy advisor and Maha Alkhateeb is a transportation research analyst, both in the Office of International Transportation and Trade, Office of the Secretary of Transportation, which serves as the programmatic lead for USDOT's human trafficking initiative.