TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A new Florida bill aims to prevent human trafficking by targeting the state’s truckers.
Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) filed the bipartisan legislation (SB 1368) last week. It has a similar companion in the House (HB 633), filed in November by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples).
The bills would require publicly-funded commercial driving schools to teach the best methods to spot and prevent human trafficking. Even those training to be school bus drivers would have to take a 40-minute course.
Kristina Bailey, with the victim advocacy group International Rescue Committee, says getting drivers trained is one of the best ways to fight trafficking. They’re often on the front lines where these crimes are happening, hotels and rest areas along busy roads.
“They are the ones coming into contact with these girls and males that are being trafficked,” Bailey said. “I actually think it’s a great bill."
Some driving schools already offer human trafficking education. Tallahassee Community College has taught its drivers for more than two years. Course instructor Patrice Robinson felt more needed the knowledge and hoped to see the bills advance in the upcoming legislative session.
“We are losing people every day," Robinson said. "Truckers are out there. We’re the eyes and the ears of the road. Why not save a life?”
The House and Senate versions of the legislation have yet to be discussed in committee.
Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office, which has been working to combat human trafficking in the state ahead of Miami's hosting of the 2020 Superbowl, said it's still reviewing the bills. Though, in a statement, officials made note of the importance of educating drivers.
“Attorney General Moody continues to stress that training transportation workers across the state to spot the signs of human trafficking is vital to rescuing victims," the statement read. "That is why she developed a Truckers Against Trafficking training and partnered with Uber to train their drivers ahead of the Superbowl."