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February 27, 2020 12:45 PM, EST

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

human trafficking illustrationU.S. Department of Transportation

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Industry leaders have met ahead of schedule Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s call for 100 pledges to commit to efforts that help combat human trafficking.

At an event in January, Chao challenged 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. Human trafficking, which involves the use of force to obtain labor or a commercial sex act, exploits about 25 million people, according to the Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking.

Chao asked the transportation industry to commit to 100 pledges in 100 days. DOT announced Feb. 26 that the agency has exceeded that goal, receiving 100 pledges within 30 days.

“America’s transportation system is being used to facilitate this modern form of slavery,” Chao said. “The department commends these employers for their commitment to train their employees to help detect and save victims of human trafficking.”

Signatories include state departments of transportation, city government agencies, port and airport authorities, trucking companies, airline groups, transit boards and nongovernmental organizations. More than 250 pledges had been signed before Chao made the call to action in January.

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

On Jan. 31, three days after Chao called on transportation leaders, President Donald Trump signed the “Executive Order on Combating Human Trafficking and Online Child Exploitation in the United States,” which dedicates a full-time position at the White House to fighting these crimes.

DOT has several efforts to combat human trafficking underway. The agency 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.

In December, DOT launched the annual Combating Human Trafficking in Transportation Impact Award, which initially was recommended by the Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking. Individuals, nongovernmental organizations, transportation associations, research institutions and state government agencies may compete for the award. The winner is awarded $50,000.

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