New Alabama law requires CDL programs to teach drivers how to recognize human trafficking

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Governor Kay Ivey with one of HB261’s sponsors, Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans, at Monday’s signing ceremony (Photo courtesy North Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – On Monday, Aug. 12, Gov. Kay Ivey held an official signing ceremony to give public recognition to several bills passed during the 2019 legislative session and previously signed by her, including House Bill 261, which requires all new commercial driver licensees to undergo industry-specific human trafficking and “any trade school or junior college offering certain truck driving courses to offer training on the recognition, prevention and reporting of human trafficking.” The bill enjoyed both bipartisan sponsorship and support in both houses. 

Such initiatives have been advocated across the country by Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), which also partnered with legislators in Alabama on HB261. The organization, which places emphasis on truckers as “the eyes and ears of our nation’s highways,” will reportedly work with the Alabama Community College Board of Trustees to develop the curriculum.

On Tuesday, Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force Chairperson Kathy Wilson told The Tribune, “I couldn’t be more pleased with the efforts our state is making to end human trafficking. This bill and its requirements will help educate the trucking industry, who are on the front lines to be able to recognize and prevent human trafficking. Here in Cullman I know several of our local trucking companies have already taken the initiative to educate their employees. JR Smith has educational materials in their drivers lounge and in their trucks. It’s nice to be one step ahead.”

Alabama Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham sponsored the bill with Education Policy Chair Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur. Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham and Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster guided the bill through the Senate.

“Professional truck drivers are in a critical position to recognize human trafficking, and when properly equipped, to know how to respond,” said Kylla Lanier, deputy political Director of TAT. “To know that Alabama has decided to educate and empower the next generation of professional drivers at the CDL school level with anti-trafficking training is phenomenal!”

“This is another step in expanding the tools in the toolbox to combat human trafficking,” stated Coleman. “I want to thank the House co-sponsor Rep. Terri Collins, Senate sponsor Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison and Senate co-sponsor Sen. Cam Ward.

“We could not have done this without Sen. Ward’s tremendous dedication and work in seeing them over the finish line before sine die,” continued Rep. Coleman. “I look forward to continuing this bipartisan work next year, perhaps following Florida’s lead in requiring human trafficking awareness in schools.”

The Alabama Legislature unanimously passed two bi-partisan human trafficking bills this session: HB261 and HB262 and two House Joint Resolutions: HJR145 and HJR244. HB262 was pocket-vetoed by Ivey after her team discovered a clerical error in a late addition amendment. Coleman expects to re-introduce the bill next session.

HB262 clarifies existing law to prohibit publishing photos of those charged with the act of prostitution, while allowing for publishing photos of those charged with soliciting or procuring prostitution. The bill is aimed at deterring “Johns” from purchasing sex and supporting human trafficking, while protecting potential victims of human trafficking from public identification.

HJR145 encourages Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to continue developing curriculum to ensure that every law enforcement officer and agent in the state is trained regarding human trafficking victim identification.

HJR244 creates the Alabama Healthcare Human Trafficking Training Program Commission, which is tasked with developing a training module for all healthcare related employees to readily identify and provide trauma-centered care for human trafficking victims.

The Cullman Tribune is a media partner with the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force. For more on the organization, visit www.facebook.com/Cullman-County-Human-Trafficking-Task-Force-870585096352748/

For more on Truckers Against Trafficking, visit https://truckersagainsttrafficking.org

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com