Texas is one of the biggest thoroughfares for human trafficking in the nation, and now one state lawmaker from Houston wants to put the brakes on it by recruiting those who spend the most time on the road: the state’s roughly 200,000 big rig truckers.
On Monday morning, the first day state lawmakers can file bills for the upcoming 2017 session in January, State Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) announced she’s filed Senate Bill 128. It would require anyone applying for or renewing their Texas commercial driver license to go through training on how to spot and report human trafficking.
Sen. Garcia says truck drivers tend to stop at a lot of the places along busy corridors like I-10 where these victims are hidden in plain view, such as truck stops and motels.
Miguel Santanilla, a truck driver with 20 years’ experience, says he’s seen possible human trafficking victims and has heard about them all over the country.
“They offer service and you tell them yes or no,” Santanilla said. “They walk to the next truck, proceed, and they keep on going 'til somebody gets to them.”
Santanilla says some drivers even put decals on the side of their truck saying “No service” or “No passengers” to discourage the approaches.
Sen. Garcia says CDL holders are a critical part of stopping what she calls “an epidemic happening in our backyard” and adds that truck drivers have been making more and more of the reports to the national human trafficking hotline, with around 500 cases reported so far in 2016.
The Texas Truckers Association is supporting the bill, and Sen. Garcia says she hasn’t run into any opposition so far.
She also says DPS has told her they can work the course into existing training, which she believes won’t take more than a couple of hours, and that it won’t cost the state or drivers anything extra.