Arkansas Trucking Association

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Up Front- In the Queue

DSCF7709 smallShannon 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.

When I learned that the wait for a potential driver scheduling a test could be six weeks, I started asking around and found that the problem wasn’t isolated to just one location. The clogged pipe could be affecting drivers and carriers who want to hire them all over the state.

I knew this was unacceptable. The economy needs people to go to work.  The supply chain is reeling with consumer demand and capacity constraints.  We immediately raised concerns to the state police and alerted the governor’s office of the importance of well-staffed testing centers.

Within six weeks of taking these complaints up the chain, the CDL examiner vacancies were filled and the sites started moving through the backlog of waiting testers. Needs remain for more positions, facilities, urgency, but this time, we were able to get loud on your behalf.

We talk a lot about the workforce pipeline and how there are never enough drivers coming down the pipe. The first way we address this problem is just making sure that the plumbing is in working order. When we know about what’s in your way, we can work to move it. Sometimes it requires policy change or funding or educating the public.

We should be celebrating the drivers acing their skills tests and stepping into their first trucking jobs, not hoping that they don’t drop out of line because the queue is too long.

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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