Arkansas Trucking Association

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Up Front - Alternative Route

ShannonNewtonShannon Newton
President, ATA

In a regulated industry like trucking, solving industry problems often seems to require an act of Congress. I don’t mean that figuratively. The IIJA that provides federal dollars to our crumbling infrastructure was a bipartisan victory that passed only after years of lobbying and negotiation. The creation of FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse to keep drug abusers out of commercial trucks was also a literal act of Congress, thanks to Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) partnering with ATA to persuade his colleagues that carriers needed a way to flag drivers with positive drug tests when they apply for the next driving job.

In Arkansas, we often ask our Legislature to understand our business and to pass laws that help us do our jobs better with fewer complications.

But not every challenge we face requires navigating the halls of the Capitol. Over the last year, ATA has been working through a specific challenge without waiting for elected officials to take a single vote or pass any new laws. Some months ago, we learned that the path from interest to employment for a new CDL driver is especially cumbersome.

To better understand the issue, ATA invited more than a dozen stakeholders to the table for the first Arkansas CDL Training Consortium. We heard from Workforce Services, Office of Skills Development, carriers and their recruiting executives, and CDL training providers.

Our first meeting began simply with an airing of grievances. Everyone was invited to lay out their biggest challenges, and we discovered several commonalities. From those conversations, we were able to identify several specific obstacles on the on-ramp to a driving career, and we took action.

The bottleneck to get students through the skills driving test was the most cited issue. Between a lack of testing sites and shortage of CDL examiners, the backlog for testing was causing massive gaps between a student finishing a program and obtaining a CDL.

That wasn’t the only delay. For those who didn’t pass their initial test, there was another 5-day mandatory waiting period for a retest, longer than neighboring states. We also learned that the data-entry system used to process Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) certifications in Arkansas is older and incompatible with other states’ systems causing additional lags when out-of-state candidates return home for licensure.

What could be done?

I reached out to the Arkansas State Police. We went step by step through each issue to determine if the solutions were administrative, regulatory or legislative.

The result: We’ve made meaningful changes in almost every aspect without legislation. Additional testing facilities were opened; filling vacant CDL examiner positions was prioritized; the required waiting period for a re-test has been reduced to two days and the state is in the process of adopting the new CPL system.

We’re not finished. There are still other issues to address, but we’re making progress and, so far, none of these have required an act of Congress. By listening to employers and educators, we’ve begun to make the road into trucking less cumbersome.

We can’t clear every bottleneck or fill every pothole, but the first mile to becoming a truck driver doesn’t have to be so congested.

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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