Wisconsin Assembly Bill 540
It was almost 30 years ago at a truck stop in Fort Wayne, IN. I will never be able to forget it. A young working girl, about 14 years old climbed out of the truck next to me. It made me want to throw up, but I didn't know what to do. Would confronting that sick trucker accomplish anything? If I ran to the girl what would happen? This was long before I had a cell phone, and what would calling the police have accomplished? There were a few "girls" working the lot. An older one, I'd guess somewhere in her 20s, asked me if I wanted a date. I said no, and expressed my concern for the younger girl. She told me that the older girls were "looking out for her".
Times have changed. Back then, it was not unusual to see "girls" working the lots and rest areas. They were a pain in the neck for most drivers. It was hard to get a good night's sleep in a lot of places. Just when you fell into a deep sleep, there would be a knock on the sleeper and a girl looking for a date. Now, it has been close to a decade since I have noticed a prostitute working a truck stop. That does not mean that it no longer exists. It does. While, our industry has cleaned up its act, the world has not.
Many states have moved to include human trafficking classes in truck driving schools. I saw headlines in stories about Wisconsin doing this. The headlines made me feel insulted. A lot of truck drivers, like my fellow pros have worked hard to improve the image of the professional driver. Orgainziations including OOIDA and the ATA have worked at this as well. The headlines didn't help. I emailed my Assemblyman, Joel Kitchens. His staff responded quickly, and assured me that were not trying to insult us. We are not being singled out. My wife, a teacher and an EMT, has had trafficking education.
Another concern was raising the cost of professional driver training at Wisconsin's technical colleges. These colleges do a great job of training drivers. They compete against shools that do it cheaper. I did not want to see them put at a cost disadvantage. Truckers against trafficking, www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org , provides materials for these classes at no charge. That does not mean that there is now cost involved. If you spend too much time on it, it could rasie the cost of tuition. If you spend too little it will be ineffective.
There is a balance. My suggestion is to spend about an hour on it. Humanize it. I would be willing to tell my story and volunteer my time, if it would help. We should give student drivers contacts, so that they won't be in a helpless position like I was. I'm not proud that I didn't help that girl. If she survived, she would be in her mid forties now. I hope that she got out. I wish that I knew then, what I know now. I would have tried to help that girl, and maybe I wouldn't be haunted by what I saw. That is why I support Wisconsin Assembly Bill 540.