Long-haul truck drivers combat human trafficking

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Truck drivers are training to recognize and prevent human trafficking on the road.

Carmen Anderson drives across the country in her long-haul truck and keeps her eyes open for signs of human trafficking.

Carmen Anderson, who drives long-haul out of Green Bay, travels about 70 hours a week. Seated higher up than most drivers, Anderson says she gets a better view of her surroundings.

“We see a lot of things that most Americans don’t see,” Anderson said. “So we’re in a position where we can help.”

Anderson said that her company trained her and her whole fleet to spot signs of trafficking. She listed suspicious tattoos and out-of-place behavior as potential signs. She also said she trusts her gut instincts.

“Years ago I was in Phoenix,” Anderson remembered. “I was sitting there, and I was watching. There was a camper, and there was a bunch of young girls coming in and out with an older guy. It just didn’t seem right, so I did pick up the phone and call authorities.”

Neal Kedzie, the president of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, listed parking lots, waysides and rest stop areas as some of the prime locations for trafficking activity. It happens in plain sight, he said.

“They (truck drivers) are the eyes and ears of the industry,” Kedzie said. “They are the ones that are on the roadways and most likely to identify and report anything that does not appear to be proper.”

A bill awaiting Governor Tony Evers would make human trafficking training mandatory in commercial motor vehicle driver education courses. The bill says instruction would deal with recognizing and preventing human trafficking.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there have been 503 cases of trafficking between 2007 and 2018.

“This is a heinous crime that exists throughout the entire state,” Kedzie said. “It’s not particular to large, metropolitan areas. It’s in the rural areas of the state.”

Anderson and Kedzie both encourage the public to be as involved in recognizing acts of human trafficking.

You can call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.