ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) has named truck driver Michael (his full name and hometown have been excluded to protect his identity) a TCA Highway Angel for discovering, turning in and chasing human traffickers with multiple children in a cage in the back of a pickup truck.
It’s a harrowing story: On June 18, 2023, around 1 a.m. in a border state, Michael was at a dark rest stop just off Interstate 10. A white pickup truck with a tarp and cage pulled up in front of him and a woman got out of the truck and went around to the back of it.
“She raises the tarp, and there’s a padlock on this cage,” Michael said. “She takes the padlock off and opens it and out comes these three or four little girls. They didn’t pull all the kids out — they put the lock back on and they forced the kids into the restroom.”
Michael said the little girls that he saw were no older than 3 or 4 years old. When the two adults and little girls came back out of the bathroom, the driver of the pickup forced the kids back into the cage, locked it and covered the cage in a tarp.
Michael called the police and was able to walk around in the dark to read the truck’s license plate. Somehow the two adults in the pickup truck must have noticed him, because they took off quickly in the truck. Michael followed them.
“They got about two or three miles ahead of me, but I was on the phone with the dispatcher,” he said. “Next thing you know, the police pulled them over— cops came out of everywhere.”
Michael also pulled over and waited till the police were ready to speak with him to get his statement. Police told Michael that “this kind of thing happens all the time.”
Several of the children had been reported missing, and there were even more children in the cage.
“In the cage, there were hammocks with kids draped across the top,” Michael said, “and the entire bottom of the cage was filled with children.”
Police also told him for his own protection he should depart, in case anyone affiliated with the human traffickers was watching. The father of two young children (including a little girl), Michael was emotionally distraught after the nightmarish discovery.
“It’s really scary,” he said.
Since the TCA Highway Angels program’s inception in August 1997, nearly 1,300 professional truck drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage displayed while on the job. Thanks to the program’s presenting sponsor, EpicVue and supporting sponsor, DriverFacts, TCA is able to showcase drivers like Michael.
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.