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Arkansas Technicians Garner Big Wins at National Competition

Arkansas Technicians Garner Big Wins at National Competition

Jesse Elmore, a heavy-duty truck technician for Doggett Freightliner of Arkansas, and Sean “Kade” Bring, a trailer technician for Tyson Foods, represented Arkansas at the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Councils’ National Technicians Skills Competitions this week, Sept. 25-29, in Cleveland, Ohio.

At the national competition known more commonly as SuperTech, Elmore took 1st place in the Brakes Station on the Heavy Duty Truck Track, while Bring won 1st in the Hydraulics & Drivebelts Station in the Trailer Track.

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Up Front- Name. Image. Law Office Commercial Breaks.

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

College football is back. Woo Pig Sooie!! Bust out your team colors, criticize the pre-season rankings, make your own predictions and escape real-world realities for a few hours. Whether you’re gathered in the bleachers or in living rooms and sports bars around the state, supporting your team is just a good way to spend a Saturday. Paint your face, scream your lungs out, invest a little too much emotion in the outcome of the game; however you fan, I’m here for it.

The game day commercial breaks I’m less enthusiastic about.

This year, especially, it feels like the boundary between the challenges of the industry are seeping into the spaces between quarters, and the feeling I am left with is whiplash and even a little bit of dread.

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The Last Word

Building Tomorrow's Workforce

By Kenneth Calhoun

And suddenly we were not alone anymore.

For my entire career, we have been sounding the alarm that there is a shortage of skilled labor to both operate and maintain our trucks. Now it seems that the whole world has realized that there is a shortage of skilled labor. Who could have imagined that doing away with the programs in our educational system that taught us how to weld, repair small engines, build a jewelry box or wire a house could have such an impact?

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Up Front- Vital Role at Risk

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

The heavy task of delivering 10.23 billion tons of America’s freight every year takes millions of people. Millions of people, fulfilling different roles—some put on a uniform before grabbing company keys, others invest in their own class 8 tractor, or pop the hood to maintain the machines, pick up the phones and create efficient routes, train the next generation of drivers or keep the books. Every role matters. An unreasonable burden to interstate commerce would be to dismantle one of the most critical roles—the owner-operator.

For nearly three decades, the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act has forbidden states from enacting laws relating to prices, routes and services of motor carriers to avoid an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

However, California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), popularly known as the “gig worker bill,” essentially requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees. Enforcing an ABC test all but eliminates a motor carriers’ ability to contract with an owner-operator because they are both in the business of transporting goods for hire.

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The Last Word

For safer communities and new hiring opportunities, consider ex-offenders

By Sec. Solomon Graves

More than 80,000 adult offenders are currently incarcerated in DOC facilities or on parole/under probation supervision, and over 80% of state prison inmates will be released from prison at some point in their sentence.

One word that describes this job market—competitive. One word that describes successful industries—innovative. An innovation being considered more often in this job market is hiring ex-offenders. These individuals want a chance to prove their skills; your industry and communities across Arkansas stand to benefit from giving that chance.

The Department of Corrections is working diligently to prepare offenders to be qualified job candidates upon release. We are very excited to be in the planning stages of a pilot program that could help offenders obtain their commercial driver license.

Oftentimes, employers only consider potential negative outcomes from hiring ex-offenders. Consider that there are also practical benefits, such as supervision terms that often require parolees to hold a job, stay away from criminal activity, check in with parole officers and submit to drug testing. Ex-offenders can be more reliable than other prospective workers.

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2022 Arkansas Trucking Championship

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Truck Driving Championship Winners

FULL LIST

Technician Championship Winners

FULL LIST

ATA would like to thank all the volunteers, sponsors, vendors, drivers, technicians, and fans for their support.

Up Front- Famous Redhead

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

In early April, I traveled with a group of Arkansas trucking executives to Washington D.C. to meet with our delegation and share our experiences and asks on important policy issues, as part of our annual Call on Washington.

The trip can feel like a whirlwind.

In two days, our attendees had a briefing with the American Trucking Associations representatives on current initiatives and proposed legislation that affect trucking, followed by face-to-face meetings with all six members of the Arkansas delegation. We had claimed time and attention between committee meetings and intelligence briefings to talk about infrastructure, the supply chain struggles, workforce barriers and lawsuit reform. It was a lot of ground to cover—both policy and literally as we hustled from office to office by trolley, foot and with an escort. 

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News Release: ATA Elects New Chairman, Directors at 2022 Annual Conference

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ATA Elects New Chairman, Directors at 2022 Conference

Representatives from J.B. Hunt, Wayne Smith Trucking, MHC Kenworth join ranks

The Arkansas Trucking Association held Board of Directors elections at its annual conference in Hot Springs, Ark., May 11-13. Outgoing Chairman Mark Morris, president and CEO of Hamburg-based Morris Transportation Services, announced Jeff Loggins, president of Jonesboro-based Loggins Logistics, was selected to succeed him to the crowd of nearly 300 trucking professionals.

“Mark served as a chairman during a critical time for our industry,” said Shannon Newton, president, Arkansas Trucking Association. “We thank him for his leadership when the pandemic, supply chain issues and ongoing workforce shortages put a spotlight on how essential trucking is. We look forward to working with our new chairman, Jeff Loggins, to continue to address these and other issues that matter most to our more than 330 member companies.”

Additionally, three transportation leaders were elected to join the Arkansas Trucking Association Board of Directors:

  • Neil Corder, President – Wayne Smith Trucking, Inc. of Morrilton, Ark.;
  • Brad Hicks, President of Highway Services and EVP – J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. of Lowell, Ark.; and
  • Todd Venable, Branch Manager – MHC Kenworth of Little Rock, Ark.

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News Release: Arkansas Trucking Names Top Driver, Safety Professional

2021 Driver of the Year Wyatt Jepsen

Wyatt Jepsen, Walmart Transportation, and Russ Curbo, Lew Thompson & Son Trucking, receive top awards at ATA Annual Conference 

On Wednesday, May 11, the Arkansas Trucking Association announced the 2021 Driver of the Year, Wyatt Jepsen, and 2021 Safety Professional of the Year, Russ Curbo. Jepsen is a professional driver for Walmart Transportation. Carson is the director of safety at Lew Thompson & Son Trucking in Huntsville, Ark. Both honors were bestowed at the Safety Awards Luncheon during the ATA Annual Business Conference & Vendor Showcase in Hot Springs, Ark.

Each year, the Arkansas Trucking Association recognizes one driver for their strong and noteworthy professional qualifications, experience and performance and one safety professional for their qualifications, safety program and safety achievements.

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Three Arkansas Seniors to Receive ATA Scholarships

Three Arkansas Seniors to Receive Technician Scholarships from Arkansas Trucking Association

Three graduating seniors have been selected to receive scholarships from the Arkansas Trucking Association. Each of the students will receive a $7,500 scholarship from the Carl Tapp Memorial Scholarship Fund to support their pursuit of careers in medium/heavy duty truck technology. Below are the 2022 Carl Tapp Scholarship recipients:

  • Colton Bell of Harrison, Ark.
  • Cole Goodeaux of Hot Springs, Ark.
  • Will Wade of Sherwood, Ark.

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2022 Arkansas Trucking Champions

2022 Arkansas Trucking Championship Winners 

Nine professional truck drivers and two technicians have qualified to compete for national titles after taking top prizes in the 2022 Arkansas Trucking Championship this weekend.

The written and hands-on competitions brought together 108 of the best drivers and 50 of the top technicians in the state for a demonstration of safety knowledge and skill. Hosted by the Arkansas Trucking Association, the championship was held June 24-25 at the Rogers Convention Center in Rogers, Ark.

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ATA Names Womack Inaugural Maintenance Professional of the Year

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2021 Maintenance Professional of the Year - Ryan Womack, McKee Foods Transportation

At the Arkansas Technician Championship in Rogers last month, the Arkansas Trucking Association announced the winner of a new award: the Maintenance Professional of the Year Award. The inaugural recipient, Ryan Womack, fleet maintenance superintendent for McKee Foods Transportation, LLC, was named at the awards banquet on June 24.

“We have long recognized the top driver and safety professional at our annual conference, so we are thrilled to add this award and recognize the men and women who keep our equipment safely on the road,” said Shannon Newton, ATA president. “We could not have given this inaugural award to a more deserving candidate than Ryan. He is a dynamic leader within his company, our association and our industry.”

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Trucking Wages Up in 2021, Study Finds

Trucking Wages Up Alongside Freight Demand, Driver Shortage

As demand for truck drivers rises among a growing shortage, so have driver wages, according to a new study by the American Trucking Associations.

In the wake of increased shipping spurred by the pandemic and compounding fractures in the supply chain, the truck driver shortage has grown to a staggering 80,000 openings in the U.S. Couple this with a 3.5% unemployment rate and the need to entice drivers with competitive wages becomes clear.

“We are committed to creating better jobs for our drivers, and that includes offering pay that reflects the value of the work they do,” said John Culp, president of North Little Rock-based Maverick USA and member of the Arkansas Trucking Association Board of Directors. “If we want to attract the best candidates to our industry, we have to be willing to pay for it in terms of actual wages and other benefits.” 

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The Last Word

Mr. Morris Goes to Washington

By Mark Morris

In April, I joined Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton and other trucking executives for my first Call on Washington. Over two days, we walked miles back and forth over Capitol Hill for meetings with our delegation to talk trucking. After more than two years of virtual this and webinar that, I welcomed the opportunity to come face-to-face with my elected officials in the nation’s capital.

I was elected to be chairman of the Arkansas Trucking Association Board of Directors August 2020 at the annual conference that had been delayed three months because of the pandemic. At that time, board members were taking conference calls with state and federal leadership to get updates on the virus situation and share what challenges we were facing to keep the supply chain moving. Since then, my whole tenure as chair has been in the middle of the pandemic; the vaccine rollout; the inflating economy; and the shortage of workers, toilet paper and microchips. The COVID chair, that’s who I’ve had to be.

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Up Front- In the Queue

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Whether you’re eager for your first set of keys and real freedom or seeking a professional license to earn a living, getting a driving license is a process.  Some take drivers’ education courses to prepare, and others flip through the little study guides provided by the state police. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a highlighted version to expedite my studies. After filling in the bubbles and answering dozens of questions to prove we could decode traffic signs and understood right-of-way at various stops, we were only halfway to our license.

The last step is getting behind the wheel with a test examiner. It’s the same for commercial drivers; before someone can earn their CDL, they have to pass a skills test. Unlike the multiple-choice knowledge test which can be conducted with one proctor and several testers at a time, a skills test is one-on-one and therefore takes more human resources and time. While there are more exam locations than counties for individuals looking to get their Arkansas driver’s license, for a CDL skills test, there are only six places in the state to go: Little Rock, Newport, Russellville, Hope, Harrison or Lowell.

In December, I serendipitously learned that some individuals were in a weeks-long queue to take the CDL skills test.

As an industry, we are constantly feeling the pressure of demand exceeding the number of available drivers. In my position as industry advocate, it is my job to enhance and expedite the workforce pipeline that we rely on to provide the flow of qualified workers. The dearth of CDL examiners presented a blocked pipe.

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The Last Word

The more things change, the more they stay the same

By Roby Brock

As we enter 2022, I’ll celebrate (and commiserate) working at the state capitol or covering Arkansas politics for 30 years. My first foray in state politics was working in the transition office when then-Gov. Bill Clinton was elected president and he transferred power to then Lt. Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. I got to witness that historic transfer of leadership up close in a private chamber session, which was pretty exciting for a 20-something political newbie.

Right after he was sworn in, Gov. Tucker called a special session of the legislature to deal with a Medicaid funding shortfall, which led to the soda pop tax that stayed on the books for decades. During that dramatic special session, bottlers circled the capitol with their delivery trucks in an intimidating blockade and their employees entered the marble halls of the capitol shaking empty aluminum soft drink cans filled with pennies. It was near-deafening. 

Meanwhile, supporters of Medicaid—nursing home employees and residents, developmentally disabled families and teams of pro-soda pop tax supporters—wandered the halls in confrontation with the uniformed soft drink workers.

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Up Front- Fast Friends

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

As I think of all the friendships that I have nurtured over the years and how precious those are to my life, career and place in our community, it is evident that the pandemic took its toll on personal connection. Some may have mastered connecting through a screen, but I was not one of them. Behind a mask, from six feet away, it has been hard to navigate first impressions and introductions. Whether you are starved for connection or most comfortable by yourself, meeting new people or strengthening previous connections feels more challenging these days. 

Making friends in school was easy. You are served the same lunch, walk the same halls, endure the same homework assignments and midterms for 8 hours every day with the same group of peers. The proximity and shared circumstances amount to an understanding that develops into a relationship. It’s almost out of your control how close you grow to the people around you.

Shared experiences are an incubator for fast friendships.

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The Last Word

Jeremy Headshot 2021

How Trucking Can Rise Above Current Industry Challenges

By Jeremy Reymer

As leaders in the trucking industry, we're all acutely aware of the unprecedented challenges we're facing daily. Unfortunately, these challenges are nothing new. According to the most recent ATRI survey, "Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry - 2021", the driver shortage topped the list for the fifth year in a row. Industry thought leaders such as the American Trucking Associations’ Bob Costello, chief economist and senior vice president, estimate that the industry is short nearly 80,000 drivers, and many expect this to be on the lower end of the actual number.

An Increasing Loss in Drivers

Several reasons can be attributed to this increasing loss in drivers over the last few years. The first is the introduction of the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, which has been steadily disqualifying non-compliant drivers since January 2020. According to the FMCSA, over 70,000 drivers have been removed or disqualified from operating a CMV due to the Clearinghouse.

Add to that an aging workforce – the average age of a truck driver is 55 years old; the average age of a new entrant is 35 years old – coupled with a global pandemic that exacerbated drivers leaving the industry while also restricting new entrants from joining, and you’ve got a perfect storm that has led to the challenging driver shortage we currently face.

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Up Front- Managing Expectations

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

I’m a strong believer in managing expectations. It helps avoid a lot of life’s disappointments. So as people start to sign their e-mails with “Happy Holidays,” we need to talk about setting our expectations for a “happy” season.

No one wants to talk about toilet paper again, but images of empty shelves where rolls of three-ply should have been stacked deep encapsulates the chaos of the early days of the pandemic in America. COVID-19 cases were low, only a few states were dealing with hospital capacity issues and misinformation was only starting to breach questions that scientists were just beginning to research.

We knew plenty of toilet paper existed, but the temporary disruption to the supply chain was enough to make the paper product aisles appear post-apocalyptic for a few weeks. The run on Charmin was a pandemic outcome I didn’t expect. Since then, every delicate link of the chain has been tested.

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The Last Word

State Tax Plan: Simple, Fair, Competitive

By Arkansas State Senator Jonathan Dismang

While it appears we have finally (and thankfully) concluded one of the longest sessions in recent history, we still have unfinished business.

After extending the regular session to wait for the pending redistricting census data, the legislature completed the congressional maps in a session wrap-up that ultimately had very little to do with maps. The close morphed into a difficult discussion on employee vs. employer rights and the differences between government mandates and employer requirements.

Amid the noise of the continuing debate related to Covid-19 policies and other hot button social issues, we have quietly set the stage to make responsible strides in reforming our state’s income tax structure.

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ATA Announces 2020 Driver and Safety Professional of the Year

On Wednesday, Aug. 25, the Arkansas Trucking Association announced the 2020 Driver of the Year, Dean Roberts, and 2020 Safety Professional of the Year, Roger Carson. Roberts is a professional driver for Dedicated Logistics, a carrier headquartered in Crossett. Carson is the vice president of safety at Oakley Trucking, Inc. in North Little Rock. Both honors were bestowed at the Safety Awards Luncheon during the ATA Annual Business Conference & Vendor Showcase in Hot Springs, Ark.

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Up Front-The Right Time

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

We tend to categorize, label and rank everything around us. Being human is to analyze and keep records of the best, the worst, the most, and the least, to assign order to all the things.

This summer, I celebrated 18 years with the association. My titles and scope of responsibility have changed, but ATA is just my second job after college. My first was in the accounting department of a member trucking company. Approaching college graduation, I attended a job fair on campus and clicked with a recruiter from Maverick Transportation. Almost 20 years later, I have a fulfilling career in this industry because of an opportunity that was available to me at a time in my life when it mattered.

Who you meet, what you study, where you work and experiences you have entering adulthood undoubtedly shape your future.

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The Last Word

My Final Mile

By Gwen Moritz

A few years ago, I sat in an audience of business publishers as our keynote presenter offered a tip on extemporaneous speechifying. If you ever find yourself called upon to speak to a trade group, he said, you can't go wrong with this opening: "No industry has experienced more change in recent years than yours!"

Those of us in the audience instantly suspected that we were not the first trade group audience to hear his speech about speaking to trade group audiences. "Totally meta," as the kids would say. But he was right: Virtually every industry has navigated so much change that anyone with even a few years of experience feels that surely no one outside their industry could possibly appreciate how much they have had to rethink and relearn.

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Up Front- G.O.A.T.

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

We tend to categorize, label and rank everything around us. Being human is to analyze and keep records of the best, the worst, the most, and the least, to assign order to all the things.

Superlatives sell. That’s why you see billboards for the biggest steak, the highest rollercoaster and the fastest car.  Later this summer, millions will tune in as the Olympic Games deliver some of the most impressive superlatives in the world. Athletes will earn titles like fastest runner, strongest weightlifter, highest jumper, best gymnast.

In trucking, I’ve seen another superlative making the headlines, declaring the driver shortage is the worst it’s ever been. In July 2019, months before the global pandemic, American Trucking Associations released its latest numbers on the shortage, urging the industry to hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade, or an average of 110,000 drivers each year.

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Arkansas Road Team Welcomes Five New Captains

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The Arkansas Trucking Association is pleased to announce it has selected five new members to join the Arkansas Road Team, a group of professional drivers chosen for their commitment to highway safety, communication skills and interest in improving the image of the trucking industry. This complimentary outreach program of the ATA serves as a public education service to address highway safety and to educate the motoring public on safe driving, especially near large commercial vehicles.

The following professional drivers were selected for the Arkansas Road Team:
Wesley Cox of Fayetteville, Ark. – J.B. Hunt Transport       
Ronnie Mahan of Sherwood, Ark. – FedEx Freight        
Donnie Pace of Little Rock, Ark. – ABF Freight 
Lazaro Ruiz of Bono, Ark. – Old Dominion Freight Line  
Austin Simmons of Siloam Springs, Ark. – FedEx Freight         

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The Last Word

From Essential to Tax Target

By Johnathan Kennemer

For months, truckers were applauded for our nonstop efforts to keep the country moving despite the coronavirus pandemic. We were essential workers who kept critical supplies on the shelves and allowed other Americans to stay home and stay safe. It wasn’t easy to send drivers into the unknown, but at least the necessity of our industry was in the spotlight, understood and appreciated.

While the country continues to recover from the loss of lives and livelihoods, we’re trying to get our own house in order as we suffer the greatest driver shortage I’ve ever seen. Truckers were heroes carrying the first doses of life-saving vaccines not six months ago. Now, we are targets.

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U.S. DOT Secretary Buttigieg Says I-40 Bridge “Critical” to National and Global Supply Chain

I 40 Bridge Closure Update

Secretary visits Memphis to view damage, meet with industry leaders

On June 3, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited Memphis to survey the damage of the I-40 bridge and meet with local and industry leaders, shining a light on the importance of this major commerce corridor.

“The protracted closure has been frustrating, it has been difficult, it has been challenging and it has been costly,” Sec. Buttigieg said. “We often have a single piece of infrastructure in a single place that really influences the life of the entire country when it’s not available or when its availability is diminished. I want to emphasize our awareness as a department and an administration that the greater Memphis metro area is critical to the national supply chain and the global supply chain.”

Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with the Secretary where she highlighted the significant impact the bridge closure is having on trucking.

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Up Front- Where's Waldo?

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

In the colorful pages of the Where’s Waldo picture books, the fun is supposed to be spotting the title character’s striped shirt, coke bottle glasses and red stocking cap. The challenge is the distracting scenes around him. Waldo always gets lost among the other loud people and patterns on the page. He’s never social distancing. He’s always in a bustling crowd. That’s why you feel a little proud when you finally find him.

If you’ve seen any of the news coverage of recent legislative session in Arkansas, there were a lot of distracting and controversial headlines. You might have been discouraged from finding what you were looking for by some of the loud people and patterns there too!

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The Last Word

Weston Mars

Trust, Faith and Germ-X

By Weston Mars

Everyone’s pandemic experience has been unique and isolating. We’ve been able to watch each other go through it online or post on social media, but I don’t think people understood my job driving a truck before COVID-19. It’s a harder picture to paint now, after everything.

It feels like a lifetime ago, but it was probably around December of 2019 when I first started hearing blips about some bug going around thousands of miles away. It didn’t seem like a major threat.

I didn’t realize how wrong I was.

I was driving for FedEx during the busy holiday season with no cases reported in the U.S. so I didn’t take notice until much later. By March, we started classifying what was and wasn’t “essential” because we had to move food, water and medical supplies first.

I was on long haul, driving from center to center, and some facilities weren’t allowing drivers to come inside. What I remember about that time was how truck driving became an even lonelier and quieter career than it already was. Without access to break rooms or anywhere to mingle with other drivers, I was on the phone with friends, coworkers and people I knew from other companies guessing what might come next. We knew that our job was going to stay important because in disasters, moving freight is always necessary, but the fear of getting sick was new.

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Up Front- A little birdie told me

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Birds are supposed to be skilled at predicting the weather and enduring the elements.

Science says it’s something about barometric pressure and how the winged creatures have a sense for that sort of thing. Some birds binge eat to fatten up before a storm. Some build better nests to shelter them through it. And some bypass the ordeal entirely and fly south for the season. What birds have yet to master or learn through evolution… is the concept of glass. 

On Feb. 16, the ground was covered with half a foot of snow, and another round was in the forecast. On my way out of Target, I noticed a baby bird trapped in purgatory between the two sets of automatic doors. My arms were draped with shopping bags carrying the essential supplies (puzzles and candy) for surviving the coming snow days. I was bundled up in my parka and mask, kicking my legs to trigger the exterior doors to open and flapping my arms to shoo the bird outside. 

The poor thing was clearly traumatized and exhausted from flapping and flinging itself into what looked like blue skies on the other side of the glass. I scared it from one side to another and then back before it just gave up.

Finally, the bird was left with no other option than to give in to whatever came next. I was afraid it might flutter or bite me out of fear, but the bird was forced to trust me to pick it up and carry it outside to freezing freedom.

If it’s hard to picture me as the eccentric lady attempting to save baby animals in the Target vestibule, thank goodness. But unusual circumstances can push us to take on unfamiliar roles.

Local meteorologist Todd Yakobian said this is a rare weather event, the kind you tell your grandkids about; five years’ worth of snow in three days. We are all navigating unfamiliar territory: Snowmageddon 2021, a global pandemic, a volatile market, K-shaped recoveries, and social challenges we may have never confronted before. 

In life, in business, how many times do we pursue what we think are blue skies, using the same tactics that have always worked to no avail?  How hard must we try to do it our way? How scared of failure or demise must we be before we allow an unfamiliar influence to show us a different way? To deliver us to a place where we can be successful?

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if your pipes are frozen, your business is stalling or your political strategy is deadlocked, recognize who’s around to support you. Someone is likely willing to show you a different way.

I’ve got much respect for the confused fowl that clutched my palm through the entry way. There’s wisdom in admitting when you’ve hit the glass too many times and accepting help to the other side.

The Last Word

Doing hard things

By Rep. David Ray

On Feb. 4th, I presented my first bill on the House floor. As a freshman legislator, and especially as one of the youngest members of the House, I was nervous. I was also nervous for another reason: I wasn’t sure my bill would actually pass.

My bill, HB 1368, would require special elections to be held on one of two standardized dates that are consistent and predictable from year to year. The reason I ran this bill is simple: it's not fair to voters to hold elections on random and unpredictable dates, especially elections that raise their taxes. It’s one of the reasons we have high taxes compared to neighboring states. But this happens all the time.

This may not sound controversial, but I assure you it is in certain quarters—there are many groups with a vested interest in preserving the status quo. The Arkansas Municipal League and many school superintendents didn’t like the bill. They argued it would restrict local control and make it difficult to pass local projects such as school improvements or funding for libraries.

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From the President

2021TDClogo

2021 Arkansas Trucking Championship Cancelled

We are disappointed to announce that the 2021 Arkansas Trucking Championship, previously scheduled for June 11-13, is cancelled. This announcement follows the cancellation of the American Trucking Associations' National Truck Driving Championship & National Step Van Driving Championships (NTDC/NSVDC).

After consulting with numerous member companies about their willingness to send competitors, volunteers and equipment, it became clear we would not have the numbers necessary to host a successful championship.

For half a century, we have recognized safety and excellence in the professional technicians and drivers from across our state by bringing them together to compete. Together with peers and families, we have celebrated their successes.

Drivers and technicians, thank you for all of the hard work you continue to deliver day in and day out. Your dedication to doing this job safely in the most complicated of situations has never been more evident than what we have witnessed over the past year. 

To the volunteers, employers, families and fans, please join us in thanking and celebrating these heroes from afar. We must continue to show our appreciation and to recognize all they put on the line so we can move our nation forward. 

We hope to see you all safe and healthy in 2022.

Up Front- Before, during, after: hope

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

2020. A number. A year. An era. A verb. A tragedy. A triumph. A numbing out. A waking up. A distancing. A coming together.

It’s been almost 20 years since Sept. 11, 2001, when hijacked planes flew into the towers and buried our sense of security beneath rubble in New York City. Still, every year, people, unprompted, tell us what they were doing when they heard the news, where they were when they watched it happen on TV. It was a moment in our nation’s history that had a before and an after.

As I’m writing this, 2020 is about to end, and I’m searching for a single moment that I might remember in 20 years. There have been many I won’t forget, but we didn’t get that demarcation between the before and the after that we all experienced together. The whole year has been “during” the pandemic. Even when we didn’t know it was here in the United States, perhaps as early as December 2019 or early January 2020, spreading slowly at first, unnoticed.  The pandemic was happening to us.

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The Last Word

One state's scheme threatens the whole industry

By Chris Spear

It is more than 1,400 miles from Little Rock to Providence, R.I. – more than 20 hours of driving to get from statehouse to statehouse, but what is happening there could have a profound effect on truckers in Arkansas and across the country.

In 2016, leaders in Rhode Island came up with RhodeWorks, a financing scheme to outsource funding for their failing infrastructure by tolling only large trucks. And not all large trucks – but just combination trucks mostly from outside Rhode Island. Politicians in Rhode Island made it clear, the brunt of the tolls was going to be borne not by citizens of Rhode Island, or even businesses in Rhode Island, but by out-of-staters who need to travel to or through the state.

It was robbing Peter to pay for Paul’s roads – if Peter lived three states away and was asked to deliver Paul’s groceries.

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Trucking Executive Update - Celebrations and Salutations

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

When the world came to a screeching halt this spring, trucks delivered the supplies needed to shelter in place. As people prepared to bring their whole lives under one roof, we delivered their laptops, desks, treadmills, medicine and much-coveted toilet paper. With a vaccine ready, trucks are delivering what we need to be able to safely leave our homes again.

Are we glad to put 2020 in our rearview mirror? Absolutely, but we accomplished a lot this year, both as an industry and as an association. We are winning a nationwide PR campaign that prominently portrays truck drivers as the frontline heroes they are. Here in Arkansas, we had a major victory on the ballot with the passage of Issue 1 in favor of better roads.

I want to thank you, your company and all our safe, professional drivers for stepping up and meeting each challenge – and there were plenty this year. Despite shutdowns and constantly-evolving regulations, you delivered. I also want to extend a special appreciation to our PAC and Governmental Affairs Fund contributors who helped make this year a success at the polls.

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Highway Dollars and Sense: Vote for Roads. Vote for Issue 1.

dollars and sense

Vote for Roads. Vote for Issue 1.

Ed. note: In November 2020, Arkansas voters will have the power to decide if the state should keep collecting a half-cent sales tax in order to raise over $205 million annually for state highways and bridges, plus an additional $43 million each for counties and cities. In each issue leading up to the election, we have covered the potential impact of that decision. In this month’s issue, we tackle the economics. We encourage you to educate yourself before you vote and to help educate your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers who will help Arkansas make critical choices about our state’s infrastructure. Read Part 1 of this special series "Highway Dollars and Sense" on the political history of the half-cent sales tax for infrastructure Part 2 on the necessity of roads to our everyday lives, Part 3 on how highway funding creates a safer state for everyone, and Part 4 on the economic repercussions of making the temporary tax permanent.

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Every time that we arrive at this moment—days before the election—we’re always ready for it. Maybe every election cycle, we get more anxious for the attack ads and op-eds to end, for holiday cards to replace candidate fliers in our mailboxes, for the conversation to be about anything else.

The Governor and advocates for Issue 1 have taken every opportunity to tell voters about what a YES vote would mean for drivers on Arkansas roads. There have been challenges of campaigning across the state when the pandemic thwarted original plans, and opponents have also spent time trying to persuade voters.

If you are still on the fence, we hope you’ll consider reading our entire series “Highway Dollars and Sense,” but to sum up, Arkansas Trucking Association has been working toward a reliable infrastructure package for over a decade. Right now, we have a chance to seize the moment and make it happen as voters. Funding roads by continuing to collect a half-cent sales tax will allow people in all corners of the state to have access to an essential resource, maintain and improve safety, and support the economy and prosperity of communities.

Voters get to make it happen

Issue 1 has had late opposition organize in the weeks leading up to the election. One consistent argument is that a tax should not be written into our state Constitution. It’s not a controversial stance to want to revere and preserve our most fundamental state text. In fact, just down the ballot, Issue 3 proposes to make it more difficult for lawmakers and petitioners to change the Constitution.

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Up Front- Vote for Roads. You earned it.

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

In Arkansas, and around the country, having well-funded and well-maintained infrastructure is not a foregone conclusion. For decades, we, along with other stakeholders and elected officials have tried and failed.

Until every vote has been counted, we won’t know if this time was different.  The passage of Issue 1 on November 3rd would finally secure a long-term funding solution for the maintenance and upkeep of roads and bridges across the state. 

But even before knowing if we have been successful, I can say thank you for being a part of the effort.   Everyone—even our opposition—recognizes the problem. You likely drove over, around or through the problem this morning. It isn’t a secret or partisan or at all divisive to say, many roads and bridges are not fit for the future we want. I’m so proud of the policy makers, professional stakeholders, and also all of you who have a personal stake in seeing a need and not being satisfied with looking away from it.

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The Last Word

A Case for Issue 1

Originally published in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By Dr. Doug Voss

Arkansas needs good roads, and that’s not changing in the foreseeable future.  Without roads, more than 86 percent of Arkansas communities would have no reliable means to receive groceries or ship goods produced by local factories and farms.  Roads are critically important to business owners large and small, farmers hauling grain to the elevator, commuters who need to get to work on time, and parents who need to safely get their kids to school.

However, financing roads has always been a sticky widget.  To overcome this issue, in the early 1900s, able-bodied Arkansans between the ages of 21 and 45 were required to spend five days per year working on roads or contribute the monetary equivalent of their labor.  I’m 44 and teach 21 year olds.  You don’t want us rookies building your roads by hand, and I doubt many in the audience strongly desire to take our place.  Therefore, our state relies on tax dollars and professional engineering crews to build and maintain our roads and bridges. Road revenue primarily comes from fuel taxes.  As our vehicles have become more fuel efficient, the fuel tax revenue used to fund our roads has stagnated while the cost of road construction has increased.  The Arkansas Department of Transportation reports that $10 million would overlay 200 miles of highway in 1998.  In 2018, the same amount covers only 90 miles.

The future of our roadway infrastructure is at hand.  In the upcoming election we have the opportunity to vote yes on Issue 1 and provide our cities, counties, and state with sustainable resources dedicated to road and bridge construction and maintenance.  Issue 1 will not raise your taxes.  It asks voters to reauthorize a half cent sales tax that has been in place since 2012 and is scheduled to expire in 2023.  The revenue will be dedicated solely to the construction and maintenance of our state’s highways, county roads, and municipal streets. 

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Highway Dollars and Sense: Power of the Purse After a Pandemic

dollars and sense

Power of the Purse After a Pandemic

Ed. note: In November 2020, Arkansas voters will have the power to decide if the state should keep collecting a half-cent sales tax in order to raise over $205 million annually for state highways and bridges, plus an additional $43 million each for counties and cities. In each issue leading up to the election, we’ll be covering the potential impact of that decision. In this month’s issue, we tackle the economics. We encourage you to educate yourself before you vote and to help educate your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers who will help Arkansas make critical choices about our state’s infrastructure. Read Part 1 of this special series "Highway Dollars and Sense" on the political history of the half-cent sales tax for infrastructure Part 2 on the necessity of roads to our everyday lives, and Part 3 on how highway funding creates a safer state for everyone.

hwy article imageIt’s no surprise that Issue 1, and most issues and candidates on the ballot, can’t be divorced from the current moment—we are in the middle of a pandemic that has created, highlighted and exacerbated problems in our society.

Throughout the pandemic, Arkansas’s Gov. Hutchinson has reminded citizens that both public health and the economy are on the line.

While the state’s economy has suffered as people reduced movement to contain the spread of the virus, Arkansas has fared better than many other states. Restaurants closed their dining rooms for months and swiftly adapted to safe, efficient, sometimes contactless take-out operations. Salons, tattoo parlors and gyms mostly had to cancel all their business during the first few weeks in order for hospitals to create plans and acquire supplies in case of a surge in cases.

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Up Front- Survival Skills

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

As our trucks keep rolling and our industry continues to deliver for America, the health and safety of our members is of vital importance to us.  Together, we are facing a truly unprecedented situation.  The global coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of our businesses, families, communities and our way of life.

During this crisis, the association has remained committed to providing our members with the latest information, advocating for their best interest and highlighting our industry professionals as heroes.

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The Last Word

Innovation is good for business and for politics

By Sam Sicard and Davy Carter

Competent business leaders know that to improve, the status quo can never be acceptable. Continuous improvement requires innovation, an exchange of ideas and healthy competition. For Arkansas to grow, to be a place where more businesses invest in our people, we must have a political climate that embraces these values as well.

For too many years now, we’ve had conversations with fellow leaders of companies and business-friendly organizations about the frustration with the lack of pragmatism in our government. Not that long ago, there were very few elected extremists on both sides, and common-sense legislation would get passed that was good for Arkansans and for business.

When we evaluate the political environment now, this isn’t what we see. Due to an election system that stifles competition, we find a government in perpetual left- and right-wing ideological warfare. Our government is gridlocked. On both sides of the aisle, pragmatic solutions have been exchanged for towing the party line.

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Highway Dollars and Sense: A Safer Way Home

dollars and sense

A Safer Way Home

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Ed. note: In November 2020, Arkansas voters will have the power to decide if the state should keep collecting a half-cent sales tax in order to raise over $205 million annually for state highways and bridges, plus an additional $43 million each for counties and cities. In each issue leading up to the election, we’ll be covering the potential impact of that decision. In this month’s issue, we tackle how the money we spend on infrastructure is money invested in our own safety. We encourage you to educate yourself before you vote and to help educate your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers who will help Arkansas make critical choices about our state’s infrastructure. Read Part 1 of this special series "Highway Dollars and Sense" on the political history of the half-cent sales tax for infrastructure and Part 2 on the necessity of roads to our everyday lives.

About 12 months ago, Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency when the Arkansas River rose over 40 feet. The Army Corps of Engineers were looking at maps of northwest Arkansas and projections of which highways would be under water in the event of a 200-year flood. The levees broke; the waters rose. The historic flooding was the top news story in the state for 2019.

Arkansans will remember that routes all over the state shut down. Actually 40 segments of highways had to close because of flooding. It left lasting damage long after the water receded. A whole section of asphalt was carried away with the current, leaving a huge, dangerous hole in Highway 155 near Dardanelle.

Six months later, repairs were still underway.

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Up Front- The Not-So-Great Unknown

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Our trucking community stretches everywhere the roads connect.  It doesn’t simply stop at state borders. And for this issue, we headed to Sapulpa, Okla., outside of Tulsa, for a first time visit to a long time ATA member, John Christner Trucking. 

I had seen in industry and social media how John Christner Trucking had encountered early cases of COVID-19 within their staff and how new president Danny Christner had openly shared his efforts to protect his workforce and continue serving customers. Impressed, I wanted to meet him myself and introduce him to our readers.

On Wednesday, May 20, I was excited to attend the interview because from our limited previous interaction, I knew Danny to be full of energy and personality. So, I woke up early and headed 300 miles west. 

Perhaps more than others, I feel comfortable and capable when I have plenty of information and control of my choices. I imagine this is how drivers feel when they start each day.  They want to know the weather, the traffic conditions, the obstacles, the cities along their route, and then be free to make the choices that will get them to their destination on time and safely.

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The Last Word

From COVID-19 to equality of opportunity, it is time for trucking to lead

By Mark Colson

Truckers are leaders, plain and simple.  All of the 3.5 million individuals working in our business across America know this, and following trucking’s response to COVID-19, Americans are now more aware than ever of the strong and courageous leadership provided by truckers. 

In hard times and good times, crisis or Christmas, truckers deliver the goods for America safely and efficiently.  We have proven ourselves to be the cavalry of America’s economy through many challenges such as 9/11, hurricanes and pandemics.

As COVID-19 and the emergency shutdowns in response to it still linger, the trucking economy hangs in uncertainty. Yet, America is facing another major challenge: racial equality and justice.  This is not a new challenge. It has been present since the founding of our great nation.  Along the way, there have been astounding tragedies and triumphant progress, but there is still much road to cover.

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Highway Dollars and Sense: Mythbusting and Life Saving on the Essentiality of Open Roads

dollars and sense

Mythbusting and Life Saving on the Essentiality of Open Roads

Arkansas Trucking hwy history image

Ed. note: In November 2020, Arkansas voters will have the power to decide if the state should keep collecting a half-cent sales tax in order to raise over $205 million annually for state highways and bridges, plus an additional $43 million each for counties and cities. Leading up to the election, we’ll be covering the history and potential impact of that decision. We encourage you to educate yourself before you vote and to help educate your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers who will help Arkansas make critical choices about our state’s infrastructure. Read part 1 of this special series "Highway Dollars and Sense" on the political history of the half-cent sales tax for infrastructure.

A Myth

It’s a popular misconception that the driving force behind the Interstate highway system was civil defense.

Pres. Dwight Eisenhower was lobbying for a highway proposal in the 1950s when the threat of an atomic bomb was never far from any American’s mind. Evacuating the cities in the event of a nuclear attack wouldn’t be efficient on the country’s current roads; a smooth way out in emergencies was necessary.

This wasn’t the reason that the country needed to fund the construction of a well-connected series of highways. It was just a perk.

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Up Front- Re-route to remain

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Unlike ever before, Americans are universally experiencing a common truth…  virtually nothing is going according to plan. In February, I sat down with my team for our regular editorial meeting to discuss the next issue of the magazine. Usually, Issue 2 is distributed at our annual conference, held each spring. It is delivered to attendees’ hotel rooms and blown up for display in the convention center. We brainstormed and assigned stories we thought readers would find interesting and insightful, including the story you’ll find on page 21 about a public health crisis in China that had affected the supply chain and had recently appeared in some patients on the U.S. West Coast.

A few weeks later, there were cases of that new virus, COVID-19, in Arkansas. In less than a fortnight, a protein invisible to the human eye brought everything to a screeching halt—except trucks. Those were still moving, and people were noticing that everything they needed to stay home and healthy was being delivered by men and women driving trucks. I called my managing editor and asked her how we could retool this issue of the magazine to address this global moment and focus on trucking’s role.

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The Last Word

The Truth of Full Shelves

By Alan Riels

When I was asked to contribute to the Arkansas Trucking Report, my first thought was “With everything I have going on and what this country and our industry is facing, I do not have time.”  However, I realized time is an important resource I can contribute to The Driver. 

I have been in the industry for 37 years and have been a business owner for 20 years.  As an “old school” person in a “new school” world, I have seen the perception of truck driving jobs change. At times, they have been considered a-dime-a-dozen, and other times, driving is rightly recognized as one of the most important jobs in the American supply chain. For far too long, I believe the driver has been taken for granted, and it is a shame that it takes something like COVID-19 disrupting the supply chain for our nation to realize how important our drivers are to us all.   

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Highway Dollars and Sense: Why the Choice is Yours

dollars and sense

Why the choice is yours

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Ed. note: In November 2020, Arkansas voters will have the power to decide if the state should keep collecting a half-cent sales tax in order to raise over $205 million annually for state highways and bridges, plus an additional $43 million each for counties and cities. Leading up to the election, we’ll be covering the history and potential impact of that decision. We encourage you to educate yourself before you vote and to help educate your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers who will help Arkansas make critical choices about our state’s infrastructure. Read part 2 of this special series "Highway Dollars and Sense" on why the roads in Arkansas have been essential to our way of life on an average Monday and in the middle of a crises.

Last spring was a big win for roads in Arkansas.  You probably heard Gov. Hutchinson claiming to have signed the biggest highway bill in the state’s history. It’s true. In a bipartisan effort, the executive and legislative branches came together with major stakeholders (like Arkansas Farm Bureau, The Poultry Foundation, Arkansas Municipal League, Arkansas Association of Counties and Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce) to find a way to start closing the gap between the amount we have and how much it really costs to maintain and develop the transportation infrastructure that connects our 75 counties to each other and the rest of the world. The Arkansas Department of Transportation estimated the gap to be $478 million.

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Up Front- Stand Up and Be Counted

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Every 10 years, we are completely different people in new bodies. Scientists have found that the human body replaces all its old cells with new ones. So roughly every decade, you don’t host any of the same cells that you used to. News flash, you literally aren’t who you were at 20 or 30 or 40. On your birthday or when you’re feeling particularly reflective, you might look back and notice all the ways your body has changed. You might make different decisions about fiber, wrinkle cream, nights out and exercise based on the body you have now.

Our country is regenerating, too. That’s why we take the census. The Constitution mandates that every 10 years we take a count of the population of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. It’s prudent that the decisions we make today reflect who we are as a country and not who we used to be.

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The Last Word

Hair raising results

By Dr. Doug Voss

Skyrocketing insurance rates driven by nuclear verdicts have led trucking companies to place an even greater emphasis on shoring up their safety performance.  According to Broughton Capital, LLC, insurance rates are responsible in part for a three-fold increase in trucking company bankruptcies during the first half of 2019 as compared to the same period in 2018.  Safety is a matter of life and death on the road and also threatens your company’s survival.

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Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Suite 185
Little Rock, AR 72201

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