Arkansas Trucking Association

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Up Front- Paving a New Way

 shannonnewton2

 

Shannon Newton
President, ATA

In Sept 2011 the Highway Commission named Scott Bennett as director of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD). We have profiled Scott Bennett in this issue of ATR because the relationship between industry and the department has never been better or more vital. It is well worth highlighting.

To say a lot is riding on how we respond as a state and as a nation to our infrastructure and highway-funding needs is an understatement. Our transportation infrastructure is key to our economic development. Our future prosperity is riding on our will to find solutions.

It is widely acknowledged that our transportation infrastructure in the United States is in serious disrepair. As roads and bridges across our state and country age and deteriorate, governments at all levels are struggling to pay for maintenance and upkeep, not to mention investments in necessary upgrades and new projects to support much greater capacity demands.

Flashback 15 Years, our association, our industry and the Arkansas Highway Commissioners, couldn’t agree on much, if anything back then, including commission acknowledgement of our industry’s vital contribution to our state’s economy and the pursuit of safety in all that we do. It was so adversarial that our association was out front pushing legislation to abolish the highway commission or strip them of autonomous power over highway spending.

In the mid-2000s, the two groups were at it again, this time over a special election on bonding authority. No one was feeling the love. Mistrust existed on both sides.

Trucking contributes over $440 million in fuel taxes alone annually to the AHTD. We have a vested interest in ensuring that those funds are used to maintain our interstates and freight corridors. To the commission, it seemed trucking wanted a free-ride without “paying their fair share.”

While those sentiments of mistrust or ill-informed opinions aren’t completely eradicated, it is a different time. As an association we have done a better job of educating elected officials, and as a result, the trucking industry’s dynamic role in the state’s economy is better understood and appreciated.

The only thing that is constant is change. And as names and faces have changed on the Highway Commission since that time, so too has leadership within the department. The same is true for the trucking industry in Arkansas and its leadership. The foes from a decade ago are fewer and perhaps a new way of doing things has emerged.

It began with baby steps.

In 2012 both sides began meeting and talking about a legislative vehicle that would provide some additional administrative funding to the AHTD and create a new segregated account to be used to advance commercial vehicle safety and education. The funds would be raised through an increase in the registration fees of interstate trucks. We worked together and were successful in passing such legislation known as the Commercial Vehicle Safety Improvement Act. Now members of the industry and the department are working together to ensure the funds are spent in a way that advances safety, education and enforcement in the industry in Arkansas.

Here are some things we can all agree on. Highway funding needs are great, funding falls short and the cost of construction continues to rise. The highway officials (state and federal), elected representatives (state and federal), the motoring public and the trucking industry all want safe and efficient highways.

The way that each group prioritizes the needs and evaluates solutions are shaded with our own perspective. We won’t always agree. But I look forward to continuing from a place of mutual respect, from which we can resolve to be problem-solvers, acknowledging our common goals and to working together to promote safe and efficient highways and a more prosperous Arkansas and nation.

Contact Us

Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
  • SERVE our members to help them to grow their business and their profits
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