Arkansas Trucking Association

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The Last Word

In the Water

By Dan Cushman

Twenty years ago, I was working for Werner Enterprises when a meeting with Walmart brought me to Northwest Arkansas for the first time. A memory of a map hanging in a fast food restaurant somewhere near Bentonville stays with me.

There were six big rivers. Two mountain ranges, seven caverns, over 2300 lakes, and 102,616 miles of public roads connected 75 counties. From my vinyl booth at McDonald’s or Hardee’s or wherever served hot biscuits and bad coffee, I could see flags on the map of some of the state’s big businesses—American Freightways (now FedEx Freight) in Harrison, J.B. Hunt Transport in Lowell, USA Truck in Van Buren, CalArk International in Little Rock, ABF Freight in Fort Smith, Walmart in Bentonville, Maverick Transportation in North Little Rock, and P.A.M. Transport (where I would end up ten years later) in Tontitown.

I remember sitting there with my friends and saying “What the hell is in the water here that all these trucking companies ended up in Arkansas?”

Of course, I picture red flags marking some of the biggest household names in trucking, but Arkansas is actually home to 4,850 trucking companies. Most of which are primarily, small, locally owned businesses. When I asked in jest, ‘why is this state particularly fertile ground for 18 wheeled businesses,’ I didn’t know that I would one day learn the answer, much less that I would be part of that answer.

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I joined the Arkansas Trucking Association’s board of directors in 2010. Listening to the concerns and learning from the insights of other leaders in Arkansas trucking has helped me to understand why this industry thrives here.

When I stepped into the role of chairman of the board in May, I took the podium for a few minutes to share my heart with the members who had gathered for the annual conference. And I wanted to impart my eagerness for the position and tell a couple of stories about how I had benefited and my company had benefited from the work of ATA president Shannon Newton and her team.

I recounted a story about being asked to speak on a panel that I felt unprepared for, but Shannon and her colleagues gave me a crash course in infrastructure and how to articulate its value to my business. On the conference stage, I also told the audience I had called on the trucking association when my company wanted to prepare for a legal confrontation. When I asked to meet with the Attorney General, Shannon arranged it so my company was well-equipped and educated to address the situation with confidence we were doing the right thing.

The truth is that until I had a problem, I never realized the power of association, the power of staying in communication and proximity to other professionals who are going through this business with you. This association is powerful, but you only get out of it, what you put into it.

When we gather at council meetings to share best practices and learn from each other, we make friends in this industry. When we hit the golf course or grab a drink with another member, we make friends in this industry. When we answer a call-to-action to write or phone our elected representatives about the issues of the day, we support our own businesses and our friends’ in this industry.

The recently passed $300 million highway bill is a product of that power of association and friends in this industry, competitors in trucking, collaborating and using one voice to tell our lawmakers how we will all succeed as a result of this effort.

If you are still wondering what’s in the water in Arkansas, it’s this. The trucking community here knows that collaboration and competition can coexist.

Don’t keep it a secret though. Share it with every friend you have in the industry. Tell all fellow truckers and suppliers in the state so that they all have the opportunity to join the Arkansas Trucking Association and know the power of the association.

As the new chairman of ATA, my goal is to be a good friend to my industry partners and to grow our membership and power as an association. I challenge you to let the secret out, too.

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Dan Cushman is the president and CEO of Arkansas-based trucking company P.A.M. Transport. Cushman also serves as the chairman of the Arkansas Trucking Association board of directors.

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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