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May 7, 2020 2:45 PM, EDT

Industry Doubles Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s Call to Fight Trafficking

human trafficking illustrationU.S. Department of Transportation

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The transportation industry has doubled Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s call to commit to practices that help combat human trafficking.

The Department of Transportation announced May 7 that more than 200 transportation industry leaders have answered Chao’s call for pledges to combat human trafficking. The crime, which involves the use of force to obtain labor or a commercial sex act, exploits about 25 million people, according to DOT’s Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking.

The number of responses doubles Chao’s initial challenge for 100 pledges in 100 days, which she announced at an event Jan. 28. The agency exceeded that goal in late February, receiving 100 pledges within 30 days.

Specifically, Chao asked industry members to respond to the Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking pledge, which calls on participants to educate employees on how to recognize signs of human trafficking, raise awareness about the issue through outreach campaigns and measure the industry’s impact on human trafficking by sharing data.

“Thank you to those who answered the Department of Transportation’s call to help put the brakes on human trafficking,” Chao said in a video message issued May 7. “By joining this campaign, you and your team are helping to ensure that our transportation system is not hijacked for evil purposes. You are on the front lines of ensuring the safety of our traveling public, and you are helping to combat this horrendous crime.”

Signatories include state departments of transportation, city government agencies, port and airport authorities, trucking companies, airline groups, transit boards and nongovernmental organizations. According to DOT, more than 450 transportation industry representatives have signed the pledge. (Some 250 had signed before Chao made the call to action in January.)

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DOT’s Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking initiative, which was formed in 2012, is a group of transportation and travel industry representatives that connects groups to resources on training, policy development and public awareness.

“I want to thank all of our transportation partners at the state and local level for their leadership in supporting this important initiative to help put the brakes on human trafficking,” Federal Highway Administrator Nicole Nason said. “Collaboration across the entire transportation industry is vital to our success in raising awareness and combating this modern-day slavery.”

DOT has several efforts to combat human trafficking underway. In December, DOT launched the annual Combating Human Trafficking in Transportation Impact Award, which initially was recommended by the Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking. Chao announced that United Against Slavery’s National Outreach Survey has won this award, which includes $50,000 as a prize. United Against Slavery is a research organization that focuses on fighting sex and labor trafficking. The award-winning proposed survey will ask anti-trafficking stakeholder groups to identify challenges and successes.

The agency also awarded $5.4 million in grants through the Federal Transit Administration to address public safety issues, including human trafficking. Through the grant program, 24 organizations will receive funding for projects to prevent human trafficking and other crimes on public transportation.

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