Fighting the good fight: How the trucking industry is fighting against human trafficking

Lucas Deal

March 6, 2017

A few weeks ago Successful Dealer ran a story about a Kenworth T680 being auctioned off in support of Truckers Against Trafficking

If you missed that story at the time, Kenworth Truck Company and nearly two dozen other suppliers have joined forces to build a customized Kenworth T680 to be auctioned off at a Ritchie Bros. auction in June in Phoenix in support of 501(c)3 non-profit Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT).

Don Blake, new truck sales manager at Inland Kenworth, is the man behind the generous idea. Blake has spearheaded the donation from its genesis, and says this summer’s auction will be the conclusion of a story that began almost two years ago.

Blake says that’s when he first met Truckers Against Trafficking Executive Director Kendis Paris, and became fully aware of the human trafficking problem that unfortunately exists in the commercial trucking industry.

Founded in 2009, Truckers Against Trafficking estimates there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking in the world today, most of which are being forced to work as slaves in the sex industry. Truckers Against Trafficking fights to combat trafficking by educating the transportation industry on how human traffickers exploit the transportation industry to move these victims, and by educating drivers to spot and report possible cases of trafficking found in North America.

Blake was alerted to these truths when listening to Paris speak at the Arizona Trucking Associations’ annual meeting in October 2015. Sitting with Utility Trailer Sales Company of Arizona Owner George Cravens at the time, Blake says both men were incredibly moved and vowed to do something.

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“Everyday Heroes” Kenworth T680 to be auctioned to support Truckers Against Trafficking

Inland Kenworth has put together a special “Everyday Heroes” Kenworth T680 with a very distinctive paint scheme and signage in an effort to further educate ...

In early 2016, they began to act, deciding on a charity auction to raise money for the organization.

Blake started by reaching out to his truck maker, Kenworth, who immediately supported the idea.

“They were all in,” he says. “They asked ‘What do we do next?’”

From there Blake started contacting suppliers to request component and monetary donations to build the truck. Again, he says the industry was incredibly generous.

“I remember the first one I asked, they said ‘yes’ so quickly I wondered if I should have asked for more,” he says.

By the time the truck finally hit the production line, Blake says it felt like half the industry was behind it.

When Paris heard, she was incredibly grateful. But not surprised.

She says the trucking industry has proven, again and again, its generosity and willingness to support programs and people in need.

“We are continually blown away by how many TAT champions are out there,” she says. “From the professional drivers, to particular truck stop partners, to CEOs of companies, to shippers and manufacturers, so many people work very hard to get this information into the right hands. And now look at Don and George, who just heard me speak once and have done this incredible thing with the help of our amazing sponsors. We are thrilled about this truck auction and can’t wait to work with the carrier who steps up and buys it.”

To date she says her organization has educated more than 300,000 truckers and industry members on how to spot and report potential trafficking, and that those drivers are proving to be “our eyes and ears. They’re reporting suspicious activity.”

More trainings are scheduled as well, as Inland Kenworth and Utility Trailer Sales Company of Arizona will hold driver seminars later this year.

Tips from Truckers Against Trafficking on how to spot and report potential trafficking.

Paris says each course covers the definition of human trafficking, dispels some basic myths that surround modern-day slavery, and go over specific red flags, indicators and how to report them effectively.

She says April’s courses at Inland and Utility Trailer Sales are limited to 50 people, and registration for each course is available on the Truckers Against Trafficking website.

Dubbed the ‘Everyday Heroes’ truck, the Kenworth T680 set to be auctioned features a 76 in. sleeper, 485 horsepower Paccar MX-13 engine and Eaton Fuller Advantage 10-speed automated manual transmission.

The truck was on display at the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) Annual Meeting last week in Nashville, Tenn., and will hit the road this spring with stops at Ritchie Bros.’ auctions in March (Las Vegas) and April (Phoenix) before finally being sold on June 20.

Blake hopes the travel and publicity around the truck motivates fleet customers to make a run at it. He says a fleet that’s willing to commit to purchasing the tractor won’t just be donating to a great cause, they’ll also be buying an impressive machine.

The ‘Everyday Heroes’ tractor holds a retail value of $157,000.

“We spec’d the truck with all the best products each vendor had to offer,” Blake says. “I hope it will go for more than $180,000. This is truly a show truck and whomever wins it will garner a lot of attention from it.”

Sponsors of the ‘Everyday Heroes’ Kenworth T680 include: Kenworth Truck Company, Ritchie Bros. (platinum level); Inland Kenworth, FlowBelow Wheel Covers (gold level); Paccar Engine, Paccar Parts, Horton, JOST International, Meritor, Eaton, Bendix, Utility Trailer Sales Company of Arizona (silver level); and Delco, ExGuard Grill Guards, Davco, National Seats, East Penn Batteries, Giti Tires, Alcoa (bronze level).

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