Arkansas Trucking Association

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Up Front- G.O.A.T.

DSCF7709 smallShannon 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.

American Trucking Associations’ Chief Economist Bob Costello cautioned, “The increase in the driver shortage should be a warning to carriers, shippers and policymakers because if conditions don’t change substantively, our industry could be short just over 100,000 drivers in five years and 160,000 drivers in 2028.”

Of course, conditions did change substantively, and not necessarily for the better. The sequence of events you know by now. The pandemic strained trucking’s workforce by making a difficult job more difficult, and many near retirement used the opportunity to make an early exit.

At the same time, the risk of the virus compelled large parts of the population to stay home and shift their spending from services to goods. Service sector employers furloughed and laid off workers to compensate for lower demand. Government assistance helped citizens keep spending and buying products to balance the economic crisis hovering behind the public health crisis. When vaccines arrived, demand for services returned, but the employees to do the serving were gone. Restaurants couldn’t staff their dining rooms. Flights were canceled without enough people to operate commercial airlines.

Normally, the trucking industry has high turnover and workforce competition from each other and from all of the trade industries like construction and manufacturing.

But now, carriers are competing with everyone, “Now Hiring” signs are hanging in all the windows. Standing interviews, sign on and referral bonuses are rampant among all employers. These challenging circumstances seem to warrant the title – the greatest of all time.

Call me optimistic, but relatively, it is a good problem to have: to be wanted and in demand. Even though the driver shortage is demonstrably the worst it’s ever been, it’s not the worst challenge to face.

Trucking companies know what it’s like to operate with a labor shortage. This industry links America to all the things it needs. The items may change, but the necessity doesn’t. For other employers, they may be learning for the first time how to manage an industry-wide talent deficit.  But we have been there. We have done this.

Even if this is the greatest challenge of all time, I still trust trucking to deliver. Our track record is superlative.

Contact Us

Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Suite 185
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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