Podcast: Combating Human Trafficking with Laura Cyrus of Truckers Against Trafficking
According to the State Department, an estimated 27 million people are victims of human trafficking. That’s why Laura Cyrus, Senior Director of Industry Training and Outreach for Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), is on a mission to equip truck drivers with training and resources to combat human trafficking on the roads.
Our host and Truckstop Chief Relationship Officer, Brent Hutto, talked with Laura about the passion and commitment that fuels her efforts to empower truckers and how she’s on a mission to build a movement to end human trafficking.
Empowering a Community Effort
Growing up, Laura never envisioned she’d champion an important cause like the fight against human trafficking. In fact, she didn’t have any knowledge about this awful epidemic until she heard a missionary speak about her experience with human trafficking overseas. This information was pivotal for Laura’s life and career—and she immediately questioned how she could do more. It was then that she felt called to the anti-trafficking sphere.
Years later, after completing her Masters in International Human Rights and Forced Labor and Human Trafficking, Laura interned with Truckers Against Trafficking and decided the mission would become her life’s work.
“Like what a niche opportunity to train drivers who are out there over the road, like literally trained to read all of the signs as they’re going down the highway. Why wouldn’t we train them to recognize human trafficking that we know is intersecting in the places where drivers may be every day?”
Her ability to empower people with tools and free training has led to the successful recovery and disruption of human trafficking across North America. Laura’s efforts at TAT have resulted in thousands of truck driver calls and tips that helped successfully identify and recover victims of human trafficking across North America.
“Human trafficking is a pervasive issue, often lurking in our communities. Traffickers exploit vulnerabilities, preying on individuals at the margins. Understanding the signs is crucial—men, women, and children are at risk.”
Contrary to what people believe, human trafficking affects everyone. Recognizing this truth is vital for building a caring and watchful society.
Specialized Training for Transportation Professionals
When it comes to combatting human trafficking, there’s an opportunity for everyone to get involved. TAT offers general training and specific courses geared toward over-the-road (OTR) drivers and regional or local drivers who can help identify suspicious behavior.
Through its comprehensive training program, TAT equips truckers with the knowledge and tools to identify red flags and respond appropriately. This training covers understanding the signs of trafficking, knowing the appropriate authorities to contact, and ensuring the trucker’s and potential victim’s safety.
One of the most important things to remember when you see something wrong is time is of the essence.
“Traffickers are routinely keeping their victims in transit…Making that call immediately is one of the best things you can do. And so the app or the wallet card, they both have those red flags…Anytime they see a minor that they believe may be engaged in commercial sex, anytime they believe they’re witnessing someone under the control of a pimp, or they’re just not sure. These red flags that are on the app can help folks really understand, yes, I’m seeing two or three of these things. I really think that this might be trafficking. And then the app is going to help them determine the best number, depending on where they’re located, the best number to report that.”
Supporting an Ongoing Effort
This ongoing battle requires continued support. The industry remains critical for sustaining momentum and expanding the reach of organizations like TAT. In the fight against human trafficking, industry support emerges as a linchpin, binding together a community that understands the gravity of the challenge.
“We’re saturating the market but working with so many amazing people and associations. It’s really neat to see associations, companies, and organizations coming on to say this absolutely aligns, we want to be a part of this, this is a no-brainer.”
If you suspect trafficking is taking place or have an emergency, please call local law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline immediately at 1-888-373-7888. Don’t wait! You may save a life.