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Kenworth sales manager fights sex trafficking after “looking the other way”

Don Blake’s passion raises $250,000 in two truck auctions for Truckers Against Trafficking

Don Blake, now a sales manager at Inland Kenworth in Phoenix, remembers driving past "shady old truckstop" where drivers solicited prostitutes. Now, he is doing something about it.

Don Blake remembers delivering Kenworth truck parts outside Phoenix 23 years ago. His rural route took him past a “pretty shady old truckstop” where drivers brazenly solicited prostitutes. 

“I just turned and looked away,” he said. “That’s how I dealt with it.”

Now a father of three teenagers, including a 15-year-old daughter, Blake passionately fights sex trafficking with the help of Kenworth Truck Co. and others.

His efforts on behalf of Truckers Against Trafficking have raised $250,000 in two auctions of new Kenworth T680 trucks. 

Federal regulators ruled July 16 that drivers caught engaging in human trafficking will be banned for life from operating a commercial motor vehicle. 

“I am delighted they are doing that,” Blake told FreightWaves. “One of the things we need to do is work on the demand side of this equation, we’re going to have fewer victims.”

Human trafficking is a multibillion-dollar worldwide scourge, with more than 40 million people enslaved. The number of victims in the United States is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. Since 2009, Truckers Against Trafficking has trained more than 700,000 trucking professionals leading to the identification of more than 600 U.S. cases.

Don Blake, sales manager of Inland Kenworth in Phoenix, poses with his 15-year-old daughter Emma. Blake has helped raise over $250,000 to help fight human trafficking.

Blake, sales manager at Inland Kenworth in Phoenix, persuaded Kenworth, a division of Paccar Inc. (NASDAQ:PCAR)  to donate $25,000 to the cause in 2016. Over the months following, he garnered financial contributions from more than 30 suppliers and others. 

The first auction in 2017 raised about $80,000. A second auction in March this year raised nearly twice as much.

“The auctions have netted TAT their largest donations of the year,” Kendis Paris, executive director of Truckers Against Trafficking, told FreightWaves in an email. “This is game-changing money that allows us to deliver on our mission while scaling sustainably.”

Truckers Against Trafficking is a 501(c)3 nonprofit designed to “educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and busing industries to combat human trafficking.”

Blake attended an Arizona Trucking Association Meeting several years ago with George Cravens, owner of Utility Trailers of Arizona, where he heard Paris present on truckers and sex trafficking.   

“Truckers Against Trafficking opened my eyes to the victims,” he told FreightWaves. “These poor young kids are being victimized. I needed to do something to help these kids.”

That led to the truck auctions. The first one did not quite cover the cost of the rig, but J & L Transportation of Arizona, which purchased the truck, has seated a driver versed in trafficking issues in it, and the Everyday Heroes truck is part of his educational mission. 

This year, between donations and the price the Everyday Heroes T680 commanded at auction, Truckers Against Trafficking received $162,000. Collin Stewart, owner of Stewart Transportation and an Arizona Trucking Association board member, purchased the truck.  

“I prayed a lot that this truck would go to the right person,” Blake said. “I didn’t want it to go to someone who would strip all the (sponsor) decals off and just run the truck. He’s going to keep the theme and carry the message.”

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.