A new Texas law set to take effect next month will require all rideshare drivers to take training courses on human trafficking.
HB 2313, filed by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), requires rideshare companies operating in Texas to provide their drivers with state-approved “human trafficking awareness and prevention training materials” in English and Spanish.
New drivers must complete the training prior to being authorized by any “transportation network company” to book fares through a digital platform. Training must be completed annually by each driver.
Subjects covered in the state-approved training must include information about victims’ experiences, how and why human trafficking can take place in the transportation industry, how to identify individuals most at risk, and the role of a rideshare driver in reporting and responding to human trafficking, among other topics.
Rep. Thompson said the training mandated by the law will help drivers recognize when some of their riders might be in trouble.
“They know how people are fooled, abducted, sweet-talked, abused, retaliated against and sometimes get involved in these kinds of situations that they are unable to get themselves out of,” said Thompson, reported Houston Public Media.
“But we also know that persons who are driving may not know all of the signs that they need to know that would give them a clue that they may be transporting a person who is being trafficked,” she added.
Texas is a major human trafficking hub. It trails only behind California for the most trafficking cases of any U.S. state, with some 1,702 documented trafficking victims in 2021, according to Wisevoter.
Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of the advocacy organization Children at Risk, acknowledged the high rates of human trafficking in Texas and said he believes HB 2313 is a step in the right direction.
“[O]ur state legislature over the last number of years has worked very hard, very diligently to pass a lot of legislation in the fight against trafficking, we’re still not there yet,” said Sanborn, per Houston Public Media.
Human trafficking is typically divided into two categories: sex trafficking and labor trafficking.
According to Htcourts.org, which maintains information on human trafficking shelters and prevention organizations, “[t]he Dallas-Fort Worth region accounts for 35% of the state’s commercial sexual exploitation cases even though they only have 26% of the state’s entire population.”
When it comes to labor trafficking in Texas, more than 200,000 people are estimated to be victims at any given time, roughly 80,000 of which are estimated to be minors, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Every transportation network company will be required to maintain records to prove they are in compliance with the new law.
Harry Hartfield, Uber’s senior manager of public affairs, voiced his support for the bill and said the company will do all it can to make a difference.
“While it’s rare for trafficking to occur on our platform, even one instance is too many,” said Hartfield, Houston Public Media reported. “We’re hopeful that we can see this done in other parts of the country.”
The new law is set to take effect on September 1.