Arkansas Trucking Association

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Up Front-The Right Time

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.

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.

For decades, we’ve been lamenting the challenges of the driver shortage. Employers pay more, engineer routes and schedules that allow for better work-life balance, offer great benefits and create healthier working relationships, but even carriers who do all of these things struggle with hiring enough drivers.

Truck driving does not require a four-year college education, so young people could consider it long before they are shuffling through a job fair on a college campus. Yet, if carriers do everything in their power to create desirable jobs and a young person wishes to pursue that opportunity, there is a federal law prohibiting it until they turn 21.  This federal restriction applicable to interstate freight creates at least a three-year gap after high school when choosing to become a truck driver is not an option.

Evidence tells us that inexperienced drivers take more risks and are involved in more fatal crashes. Research shows there is still a lot of brain development through age 25. Maturity isn’t uniform though. There’s a lot to be said about the age of adulthood. We are old enough to vote, run for office and serve in the military at 18.

No one wakes up on their 21st birthday prepared to be a safe, responsible adult. Some of us get there sooner or later. Truck driving is a hard job with big responsibilities, but it’s rewarding, essential and a calling for millions of Americans. Instead of making a rule that no one under the age of 21 is ready to drive a truck, why not determine who could be?

The American Transportation Research Institute has worked with a psychologist and professor at the Center for Neurobehavioral Development to create a tool that would assess younger drivers and determine what traits are associated with safe vs. unsafe driving. Recently, they beta-tested the tool on existing drivers and published the findings that personality traits, physiological characteristics and aspects of mental health could predict safe driving. They have revised the tool, and later this year, ATRI will enroll 300 young drivers to continue testing this theory.

I’m encouraged by this research that asks how to invite younger drivers to the road without compromising safety. There are not enough people choosing to be truck drivers, and part of the problem is that the choice is not available at the right time.

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
You are here: Home Article Archive Up Front-The Right Time