Arizona Trucking Association President and CEO Tony Bradley says trucking isn’t an easy job, and it’s one that got tougher during the pandemic. Over the past few years, his industry has faced supply chain issues, shortages in manufacturing, and port delays, along with an unprecedented demand for products. Unfortunately, criminals see these challenges as an opportunity, which only makes truckers’ jobs more difficult.
Having a strong and reliable supply chain is dependent on the trucking industry. As the main mode of moving goods across Arizona and the nation, we are constantly impacted by unforeseen variables and obstacles. This isn’t an easy job and it got tougher during the pandemic. Over the past few years, we have faced supply chain issues, shortages in manufacturing, and port delays, coupled with an unprecedented demand for products. Unfortunately, criminals see these challenges as an opportunity. And that only makes our job more difficult.
Many are unfamiliar with the broad and expansive reach of illicit trade, which is an estimated $2.2 trillion dollar industry. These are not victimless crimes. The distribution and sale of illegal products funds criminal networks that fund more crime such as human trafficking and terrorism. These operations are becoming more sophisticated each day by capitalizing on internet sales and organized retail crime. Not only does this put legitimate businesses at financial risk, but illicit trade also puts unsafe products on the street, such as fraudulent pharmaceuticals and baby formula.
The trucking industry finds itself at the heart of this issue and it was top of mind during the annual Trucking Association Executives Council (TAEC) Conference. State trucking association executives, business leaders, and industry experts from across the nation shared information and strategies for identifying these criminal networks.
The TAEC Annual Conference is an opportunity for the state trucking association executives and business leaders to get together and share ideas, best practices, and experiences that help them run their organizations that represent the trucking industry across the United States.
TAEC and the American Trucking Associations federation have been working on strategic efforts to stop illicit trade for more than a decade. The organization has encouraged members to help combat human trafficking, implemented training programs, established zero-tolerance policies, and are heavily involved in Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). These strategies have made a real impact with more than 1 million trucking professionals registered as TAT trained; and approximately 2,700 calls have been made to a national hotline from truck drivers with nearly 1,300 victims identified.
But there is more work to do. Just as we have helped raise awareness about human trafficking, it is important to broaden the conversation to all aspects of illicit trade. Public private partnerships are key in getting this work done. United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USAIT) is a public education initiative to combat black market trade by helping inform and train local leaders and law enforcement about these dangerous crimes. The TAEC Conference was an opportunity for USAIT to interact and educate the state trucking association executives about how they could join the fight against illegal trade.
The Arizona Trucking Association and the Pennsylvania Motor Transport Truck Association have been members of USAIT since 2021. After the conference several other trucking associations joined the cause.
We know this is a large issue to tackle, but it cannot be ignored. The safety and economic wellbeing of our community and industry depends on it.
Tony Bradley is the President and CEO of the Arizona Trucking Association