UPS Inc. (NYSE: UPS) is taking on the fight against human trafficking within urban communities by training parcel drivers to spot suspicious activity.
The initiative expands on a partnership in place with Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), which already helps train long-haul drivers at UPS Freight, to include roughly 130,000 parcel drivers as well.
"It puts a different layer on the relationship that we have with our drivers to understand it's not just about our company, it's not just about our employees, but it's truly about our community," said Danelle McCusker Rees, president of human resources for UPS U.S. Domestic Operations, commenting on the initiative at UPS headquarters in Atlanta. "This issue impacts everyone."
Speaking Tuesday at a summit to combat human trafficking at U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) headquarters in Washington, D.C., TAT founder and Executive Director Kendis Paris commented, "UPS represents a whole other level for us – not just long-haul freight drivers but the local guys that come into our neighborhoods," she said.
Paris shared the stage with DOT Secretary Elaine Chao, who announced a "100 Pledges in 100 Days" initiative to expand human trafficking awareness training in both the government and private sectors. Along with fighting human trafficking on the nation's roadways, the initiative includes companies and agencies in the rail, maritime and air transportation sectors, Chao said.
She announced that the DOT, through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), has so far awarded over $1 million in grants to support counter-trafficking efforts at the state level and will be awarding $5.4 million in transit grants through the Federal Transit Administration to address the issue.
In response to the signing into law of the No Human Trafficking on our Roads Act by President Trump in January 2018, the FMCSA issued a final rule last year that bans drivers caught engaging in human trafficking from operating a commercial motor vehicle.
Lisa Mullings, who represents truck stop owners and operators as CEO of NATSO, emphasized at the event her organization's goal of providing truck stop owners and employees with the resources to train employees on how to detect and help potential human trafficking victims.
"Every January, during National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we reaffirm our commitment to this important cause and to doing all we can to advance public awareness because we know that private enterprises are making a meaningful difference in the fight against this horrific crime," she said.
TAT's next initiative is to expand its training program into the energy sector – a natural extension given the overlap of those industries with trucking, she said.
"We initially reached out to the oil and gas industries to ask them to use their influence with their carrier partners to get them to become TAT trained," Paris said. "But they came back to us and asked us for a training program for our rig workers and everyone else in the oil and gas industry. Ultimately, we want to see every trafficker penalized to the fullest extent of the law, no matter their profession."
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