PHOENIX, AZ… J&L Transportation owner and president Mike Jimenez and company driver Brian Sprowel are on a mission. Through the “Everyday Heroes” Kenworth T680 Jimenez acquired for J&L Transportation at a benefit auction, and now driven by Sprowel, they want to educate everyone they can on how to become heroes to those victimized by human trafficking.
The “Everyday Heroes” Kenworth T680 and the benefit auction were the brain-child of Don Blake, Inland Kenworth’s Phoenix area new truck sales manager, who worked with several companies to outfit and build the Kenworth T680, fully loaded with a 76-inch sleeper, 485-hp PACCAR MX-13 engine, Eaton® Fuller Advantage™ 10-speed automated transmission. Blake’s goal? Create a one-of-a-kind truck with a distinctive exterior design that celebrates the work of Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), and then sell it at a benefit auction with proceeds going to TAT, an Englewood, Colorado—based 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to stopping human trafficking by educating truck drivers and rest stop employees on how to recognize the signs and report them to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Jimenez helped Blake achieve his goal when he submitted the winning bid and took delivery of the Kenworth T680 in June. Now, not only is the truck helping spread the word about the problem of human trafficking and what truckers can do to help stop it, but also it’s saving his company a great deal of money in fuel costs. With just under 70,000 miles as of November, Jimenez said the Kenworth T680 is delivering close to 1 mpg fuel economy improvement over the performance of the previous truck that Sprowel drove.
As for drawing attention to Truckers Against Trafficking, Jimenez said the Kenworth T680 has exceeded expectations, particularly due to exterior updates made to the truck. “Following the auction, the first thing we did after Brian drove the truck back to our company’s home terminal was to apply a large decal that prominently displays the Truckers Against Trafficking web site address,” Jimenez said. “We also added ‘Or ask me for more information’ next to the web site address.”
Jimenez said the change lets people know where they can go online to learn more about the organization and its work, or that they can approach Sprowel and ask him more about it. Jimenez knew that by putting such a prominent invitation on the truck, he would place Sprowel square in the public eye. So, before he submitted the winning bid at the June auction, which resulted in $89,000 in support for Truckers Against Trafficking, Jimenez asked Sprowel if he was willing to become TAT certified and feel comfortable serving as the company’s TAT ambassador. When he agreed, Jimenez knew they would need the full support of the customer that Sprowel serves.
“We anticipated that as Brian stopped to answer questions along the way, he could fall behind schedule and miss his delivery or pick-up windows,” Jimenez said. “Or, there could be the possibility he would reach the end of his duty period before he could pick up or drop off a load.”
Since Sprowel is assigned to a route dedicated to one customer – Sub-Zero Group Inc., Jimenez asked senior managers at Sub-Zero if they would be willing to instruct their employees to work with his company’s dispatchers to arrange options whenever Brian ran late for appointments. When the senior managers learned more about Truckers Against Trafficking and its mission, they were 100 percent supportive and agreed to instruct employees to rearrange appointments to work around any resulting delays.
Sprowel drives the “Everyday Heroes” Kenworth T680 on a drayage route that takes him from Sub-Zero’s assembly plant in the Phoenix area to warehouses and ports in the Los Angeles basin and back each week. His truck also routinely hauls parts and finished products among several distribution centers and manufacturing plants in Arizona, California and Nevada. Depending on traffic conditions and pick-up and delivery appointment schedules, Sprowel may spend two or three nights out on the road and get home two or three nights a week.
Sprowel said since he started driving the truck this summer, nearly every day he’s been asked about Truckers Against Trafficking. “Most truck drivers generally know about what’s going on out there at truck stops and rest areas,” Sprowel said. “Still, I think they’re often shocked to learn just how bad the problem is. I know I was. It’s a $1.2 billion industry here in the United States alone. Worldwide, forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion a year industry with nearly 21 million victims. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated that one of every six runaways reported as endangered were likely child sex trafficking victims.
“I’ve found that once they learn these things, most truckers, like me, want to stop looking the other way and do something about it,” he added. Since the program started in 2009, Truckers Against Trafficking has trained more than 474,000 persons like Sprowel in recognizing human trafficking and taking the steps to report it. The program has resulted in nearly 2,000 reports from truck drivers.
“Through TAT certification, truck drivers can better recognize suspicious behaviors and know when and how to report them,” Sprowel said. “I really like being able to help others learn what they can do to help put an end to these human trafficking disasters.”
Sprowel’s work as a community ambassador for TAT and J&L Transportation in the T680 isn’t limited to truck stops and rest areas, or even the TAT program. Recently, Sprowel and the special T680 have appeared at Teens and Trucks’ Youth Safe-Driving Campaign events organized by the Arizona Department of Public Safety and at Share the Road/Teens and Trucks appearances at driver education classes sponsored by the Arizona Trucking Association.
“Not only can we teach a new generation of drivers how commercial trucks operate so they’ll have a greater respect for them, we can also provide young people age-appropriate warnings about human trafficking and traffickers,” Sprowel added. “It’s such an honor to be doing this important work for such a good company as J&L Transportation, which has made an investment not only in my physical well-being by buying this Kenworth T680, but also in my soul. It really makes me feel good knowing that I work for a company that cares about the injustices in our world and fully supports me in doing something more to help end them.”
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Kenworth - Brian Sprowel J&L Transportation T680 TAT 1