U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), who chairs the committee that oversees trucking, on July 12 introduced legislation (S. 1532) that would permanently disqualify from operating a commercial motor vehicle anyone who uses a CMV in committing a felony involving human trafficking. If enacted, the bill would make human trafficking the second offense for which there would be a lifetime ban on driving a CMV. The other is committing a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance, or possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance.
Specifically, the lifetime ban on driving a CMV would apply in cases of "severe forms of trafficking in persons," which is defined as:
Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induces to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery
“Human trafficking must be fought on many fronts,” Thune said. "Our legislation is a starting point for prevention and enforcement against the use of a commercial driver’s license in human trafficking.”
Just as senators look to punish commercial drivers for involvement in human trafficking, they want drivers' help in stopping it.
On the same day, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) introduced a bill (S. 1536) that would designate a human trafficking prevention coordinator within the Department of Transportation to work across all modes and would expand the scope of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s outreach and education program to include human trafficking prevention activities.
“As our eyes and ears on the road, truckers and commercial drivers are often the first line of defense against human trafficking,” said Klobuchar. “By providing training to recognize and report trafficking, we can empower them to prevent this heinous crime across the country.”
As introduced, both bills were co-sponsored by Thune, Klobuchar and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida), who is the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee. Both also are co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida). The introduction of the two bills came the same day that the Commerce Committee held a hearing on how transportation stake holders are combating human trafficking.
In response to S. 1532, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said it supports efforts to combat human trafficking but opposes Thune's bill.
“We are exasperated that at a hearing where truckers were applauded for their critical role in combating human trafficking that any lawmaker would single out that same profession for a crime that happens everywhere,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA's executive vice president. “Truckers are on the front lines of defense in the battle against this horrendous, global crime by way of identifying, reporting and ultimately preventing it.”
OOIDA noted that it supports Truckers Against Trafficking, a group dedicated to fighting against human trafficking. However, it noted that severe criminal penalties already are in place for people convicted of human trafficking, and the group is concerned about the possible precedent of adding commercial driver's license penalties when lawmakers are trying to fight crime or other activities they oppose.