Human Trafficking and the Transportation Industry

Like any business, human trafficking typically depends on transportation systems to operate.Traffickers may recruit victims from bus and train stations and will utilize transportation systems to both bring new victims to their trafficking operations as well as to transport current victims to different places where they will be trafficked and abused. Therefore, mass transportation hubs like airports are key points for victim identification, and public awareness. It is also critical that survivors are provided access to transportation as this might be the main obstacle to their leaving a trafficking situation.

Transportation in Recruitment

Most trafficking victims will use some type of transportation during their recruitment, however, many victims are unaware at this stage that they will be entering a trafficking situation. They think they are headed to a new job opportunity, meeting a boyfriend, or even going on vacation. Traffickers will arrange for victims to get to them through airlines, trains, and most typically long-distance buses like Greyhound. Informal bus systems like “Chinatown buses” are also ideal recruitment grounds for traffickers from illicit massage networks. Bus and train stations are also sites of recruitment as runaway youth and homeless individuals may frequent these transit hubs.

Transportation in Trafficking Operations

Human trafficking is a business that can require at least occasional transportation to operate. Trafficking in escort services can use rental or private vehicles, buses, trains, and airlines to travel the country to access different commercial sex markets. Once there, they rely on taxis, rentals, and ridesharing apps to transport victims to/from buyers. Illicit massage networks hire private taxi drivers to transport victims between brothels. Traveling sales crews and other types of migrant labor contractors shuttle their businesses by private vehicles. Therefore, interventions to prevent trafficking is dependent on the type of transportation being utilized and the type of trafficking business model. What works for airlines might not work for ridesharing services.

Transportation for Victims & Survivors

Survivors are coming into the most significant contact with transit systems during attempts to leave, only to be faced with a lack of access to safe and affordable transportation. Many victims may need to use a bus or rideshare vehicle to leave their trafficker and unfortunately they may not be able to afford one or company policies such as needing an ID to access a ticket may prevent them from escaping their trafficker. Bus and truck drivers have become a critical resource in identification as well as access and support. This can include seeing domestic workers using buses, labor trafficking on shipping routes, or sex trafficking at truck stops.

Transportation Industry Recommendations

This report makes several recommendations for the transportation industry. One is for companies to provide travel vouchers or points donations which can be used for victims leaving trafficking situations and aid them in rebuilding their lives. Training for staff on how to identify/respond to human trafficking and developing an employee anti-trafficking and demand reduction policy are critical in disrupting human trafficking. It is also important that the National Human Trafficking Hotline number be displayed and promoted in all types of transportation such as taxi windows, bus stations, train bathrooms, etc. It might also be beneficial to post prevention-based materials for those individuals traveling into trafficking situations.