Two bills backed by U.S. Rep. John Katko that aim to crack down on human trafficking have cleared a key hurdle.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the measures, the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act and the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act, at its meeting Thursday.

The No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act sponsored by Katko, R-Camillus, would prohibit individuals from driving commercial vehicles if they used a commercial vehicle to commit a felony human trafficking offense.

Katko introduced the bill in September. The legislation has 15 cosponsors — eight Republicans and seven Democrats. The supporters include two New Yorkers, U.S. Reps. Kathleen Rice and Elise Stefanik.

"Too often, human traffickers take advantage of our nation's transportation network to transport their victims from one location to the next, and the U.S. Department of Transportation and the transportation industry play a critical role in preventing and stopping these heinous exploitations," said Katko, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Connecticut Democrat. Katko is an original cosponsor of the bill.

The legislation would require the transportation secretary to designate a human trafficking prevention coordinator within the U.S. Department of Transportation and establish an advisory committee on human trafficking. It would also allow for the expansion of outreach and awareness programs.

As of June 30, there have been 4,460 human trafficking cases reported this year, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The hotline received 13,897 calls in the first half of 2017.

Esty said there was a human trafficking ring busted in Cheshire, Connecticut — her hometown.

"Human trafficking is an appalling and inhumane crime — and it's happening throughout Connecticut and all over the country," she said.

The bills passed the committee may be considered by the full House. There are similar measures that have been introduced in the Senate.

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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