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2019 Arkansas Trucking Championship



Truck Driving Championship Winners   Technician Championship Winners

ATA would like to thank all the volunteers, sponsors, vendors, drivers, technicians, and fans that helped to make the 2019 Arkansas Trucking Championship the biggest to date!


Up Front- Gone Fishin'

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

It’s summertime. Time for beach vacations, pool days, theme parks and spending quality time doing things you enjoy with the people who make it enjoyable. 

In trucking, summer activities include a fast-paced produce season when those who haul fruits and vegetables have tight timelines for delivering watermelons and peaches to shelves in time for picnics and barbecues. While kids gather ‘round the campfire telling spooky stories before heading back to their bunks, bellies full of marshmallow, we are telling our own stories. It’s an essential part of what we do all year round, but the audiences vary from season to season.


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.


Up Front- Epicenter of the Economy

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

The transportation sector is the 4th biggest contributor to the American GDP. Research from the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that accelerations and decelerations of the freight Transportation Statistics Index precede the growth cycles of the economy by about four months. We sit on top of the economic fault lines, so when plates begin to shift, trucking feels it first.

Over 200 years ago, the three most powerful earthquakes shook the U.S. along the New Madrid faults, a seismic zone from Arkansas to Illinois. On Dec. 16, 1811, northeast Arkansas was the epicenter of the first quake. For over 7 weeks, more earthquakes and intense aftershocks rippled up the fault lines, and the convulsions shook awake people in Pittsburgh. Even Pres. John Madison and his wife Dolly could feel the tremors in the White House.


The Last Word

Can America Follow Arkansas' Lead on Highways?

By Chris Spear

Sometimes Arkansas seems to be a step ahead of the rest of the country with its vision and leadership.

In March, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law what he called “the largest highway plan in the state’s history.” The legislation includes an increase of 3 cents for a gallon of gasoline and 6 cents more for diesel, and is expected to raise $95 million annually for the state’s highway system as part of a critical and ambitious new $300 million highway program.

In no small part, the successful passage of this legislation was due to the support of the Arkansas Trucking Association. The association had long pushed for a modest increase of the fuel tax, which had not been raised in a decade. Over that time, Arkansas – which has the 12th largest highway system in the nation – slipped to 43rd in spending on roads and bridges.


Up Front- Champs

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Each year, one team raises their league’s distinct trophy, cup or bowl in the air in celebration of a year’s worth of hard work, dedication, success, and likely a little bit of luck. Champions secure their place in history, forever to be remembered for the collective effort to be the best.

The images remembered and stories re-told are often those final moments or decisive series of events.

Yet, if you’ve ever been so fortunate to be part of a championship team, you know there are many more less picturesque moments that contributed to the success. Often times there were years’ worth of preparation, conditioning and disappointment. But when the right team was assembled, aligned with opportunity and a little bit of good fortune, history was made.


The Last Word

Does Black Smoke Matter

By David O'Neal

History is replete with grassroots movements that have improved working conditions, brought down governments and in many cases, effected genuine and lasting societal change.

Within the trucking industry, organized labor movements have met with relative success, ebbing and flowing over the decades. Yet grassroots efforts have generally fallen short of their goals.

So it is with “Black Smoke Matters”, a recent social media-driven push to influence regulations, primarily around hours-of-service.  Their name is an admitted adaptation of “Black Lives Matter”, a movement that campaigns against violence and racism. It’s also intended, according to their public comments, to evoke an “old school trucking” mindset of the days before environmental regulations cleaned up the exhaust and emissions. And there are elements of “Anonymous” in at least one of their online videos, complete with a Guy Fawkes mask, ominous music and a distorted and bass-heavy vocal track with menacing demands for what they consider reform.


Up Front- Inquiry, Dopamine, and the Rowing Machine

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

It feels so good to be right. Neuroscientists say we get a little rush of dopamine when we read or hear news that matches our beliefs about the world and success.  

Recently while at the gym I made a flippant comment, in attempt to make a loss sting a little less, about how boys were supposed to win a particular challenge.  I believed it to be true, but I didn’t really know with certainty.  It seemed logical to me that longer bodies with superior upper body strength would be advantageous for a row challenge measuring meters rowed in a given time.

As not to dwell on the loss, I quickly moved on to the next station and a new topic of small talk. 


The Last Word

Holiday Traditions Bring Us Together

By Erica Brigance & Michelle Smith

This time of year, we take part in ingrained traditions, from the places we meet, the food we cook or the gifts we exchange. Likewise, the Arkansas Trucking Association’s 40 Under 40 Council has held to a near-decade long tradition of giving back during the holiday season.

The council, which meets quarterly at various locations across the state, always includes an end-of-year volunteer event to allow members to practice acts of kindness and generosity for communities or groups in need of holiday cheer. Previous events have included wrapping gifts for children in foster care and working with the Salvation Army to sort gifts for local children in need.


Up Front- Find a Way to Win

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

I would love to use this column to pat ourselves on the back and congratulate all of you on a big win for the trucking industry, but maybe next time. This one's about perseverance, commitment and our willingness as an industry, as advocates, to call an audible and continue the work because there's plenty of it.

For the better part of three years, we have strongly supported the American Trucking Associations efforts to find a solution to the F4A issue of federal preemption.  State laws conflicting with federal laws have subjected interstate carriers to the impossible task of attempting to comply with multiple sets of overlapping rules and made the industry a target for greedy trial lawyers looking to catch carriers out of compliance with the duplicative requirements.

Over this time period, legislative strategies have been created, executed, scrapped and re-drawn numerous times.  Members of Congress have come and gone.  We’ve hoped for relief from the nation’s highest court.  But each time we were close to delivering a victory, language was stripped, votes were whipped, the petition for hearing by the Supreme Court was denied, and we came up short.


The Last Word

No Reason Good Enough Not to Vote

By David O'Neal

The general election on Nov. 3, 1992 was of profound consequence. A new administration took over Washington after 12 years of Reagan/Bush. Native-son Bill Clinton would lead that new administration, becoming the first Arkansan to hold the nation’s highest office.

And at age 18, it was the first of seven consecutive “generals” in which I would vote – up to and including 2016.

Twenty-six years ago, I couldn’t wait to vote, and I still get excited in anticipation of Election Day. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm, though. Nationwide, only around 55% of U.S. citizens voted in the 2016 general election – about the same as 1992. The midterms have an even lower voter participation rate.

Why do slightly less than half of our citizens forgo this fundamental right? Apathy? Ignorance? A different value-set?


Up Front- My People

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Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Every September, we host a lunch at a local truck stop during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. It’s not particularly fancy, but it does take a lot of volunteers, donations and ketchup packets to pull off. We welcome as many truck drivers as are able to take their lunch breaks with us as they are travelling I-40.

Serving burgers and hot dogs is not an integral part of my job. But I look forward to it every time the opportunity comes around, because I love spending time with the people in this industry.

A few weeks ago, I was in Malvern, Ark. at JM Bozeman Enterprises. Rep. Bruce Westerman had accepted our invitation to meet constituents and learn more about the trucking industry in his district. We walked through the dispatch “war room,” met the all-female safety team and toured the technicians’ shop before Rep. Westerman agreed to ride along with one of the senior drivers. They shook hands, took pictures, and told stories with the Congressman while showing him their lives.


The Last Word

Lawsuit Reform is Key Ingredient for Arkansas's Future

By Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin

Arkansas needs lawsuit reform to compete economically and increase access to health care. As we work to grow our communities, we are burdened by the threat of frivolous lawsuits and the hidden costs of an out-of-date legal system that unfairly target job creators and penalize the doctors that care for our loved ones. We are the only state in our region without lawsuit reform, but in November we can change that. That’s why I am supporting lawsuit reform and Issue 1.

Arkansans are the best workers in the world and can compete with anyone. For too long, however, harmful, misguided policies have burdened us. Despite these obstacles Arkansans have excelled. Just think what we could do with lower taxes, reasonable regulations, more educational choice and a leaner state government. These are the ingredients for growth and prosperity. That’s why I favor bold reform and am working with Gov. Hutchinson to transform a state government that taxes and spends too much. Arkansans are growing jobs and competing like never before, but the missing ingredient of lawsuit reform holds us back.


Up Front- The Chance for Change


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

I am not much of a come-what-may person. Laissez faire is not part of my vocabulary, and not because I don’t speak French. It’s not part of my vocabulary because I’m just not the type of person who is comfortable when things are out of my control.  I prefer not to leave things to chance.

And yet, there are things in life you can’t control. I don’t like it, but I accept it. As often as tragedy can be prevented, it can’t.

In May, a jury in Houston, Tex., awarded a nearly $90 million judgment against Werner Enterprises after a pickup truck travelling I-20 lost control in freezing rain conditions, left the lane, crossed through the median and into the path of a Werner truck, travelling the opposite direction.


The Last Word

Free, but fair trade

By Shannon Everett

Over the last two years, the current administration has really started to challenge the trade policies that have been constructed over the last three decades. The benefit that we have today is an ability to measure the results of these trade agreements against the assumptions that were made when they were passed. Two key beliefs that were held by the architects of the North American Free Trade Agreement were that there would be a trade surplus and increased living standards for the partner countries.  It is very important to understand these assumptions and why they are flawed.


2018 Arkansas Trucking Championship



Truck Driving Championship Winners   Technician Championship Winners

ATA would like to thank all the volunteers, sponsors, vendors, drivers, technicians, and fans that helped to make the 2018 Arkansas Trucking Championship the biggest to date!


Up Front- Meeting of the Minds


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Before Edison commercialized the light bulb, illumination has been a metaphor for how innovation lights up the dark. Scans of our brain show neurons literally “lighting up” the screen when we think and consider ideas.

We have this image of an isolated genius, hunched over his desk, where a glowing bulb flickers above his head in a dim, empty room as he composes, paints, or invents some masterpiece. Even Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest artists of the 21st century said, “Without solitude, no serious work is possible.”

But science suggests that no serious work would be possible without socializing either, that our brains are made for relationships and innovation is just a by-product of what we really use our minds for—community.


The Last Word

Listen, Act, Respond: Three Steps to Improving Driver Retention

By Max Farrell

We’re all reading the same things: driver shortages, driver turnover, a fire-hot freight market, etc.

Now more than ever, trucking executives are wanting to take advantage of the business opportunities provided by the industry. But there’s a roadblock: it’s tough to find and keep truck drivers.

For too long trucking companies have focused strictly on recruiting. But with recruiting metrics favoring the advertiser and not the trucking company, driver retention is being revisited.


Up Front- Repeating History


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

In December 1982, Pres. Ronald Reagan faced a problem that feels eerily familiar. Four thousand miles of the not-yet complete interstate system was in need of resurfacing and 23,000 bridges in need of repair. The gas tax, which had been levied to fund the interstate system, had not been increased since three years before construction began. And it no longer covered expenses.

In the Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, for the first time in 23 years, Congress more than doubled the gas tax, raising it five cents to a total of 9 cents a gallon. The bill authorized $71 billion for highway construction, road repairs and mass transit.


The Last Word

Game On

By Al Heringer, IV

Almost 25 years ago, my family expanded our business offerings to include a petroleum-hauling common carrier operation under the name of Star Transportation. After I graduated from college, I joined the business which at the time had only six trucks. Running a trucking company hadn’t been part of the plan I had for myself. Like most people who play high school and college sports, I thought I was headed to the pros – specifically, the NFL. But I found my path redirected in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I hung up my cleats for the last time.

I have a similar feeling when I think of how differently the trucking industry looks a quarter-century later.


Up Front- Remembering the Empty Seats


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

This time of year, there’s a lot of pressure to spend weeks (and your whole paycheck) shopping for and wrapping holiday gifts for your family, but in the minutes after all the presents are opened, bellies full of chocolate oranges and surrounded by a small mountain of crumpled reindeer paper and ribbon, we can forget that the most expensive gift is the one we sometimes take for granted—living in a free country.

For all the reasons to love the holidays—presents, parties, your kids in matching pajamas on Christmas morning—the expectation to make merry and have an abundance of joy is not always the reality for the families who have an empty seat at the dinner table. The songs tell us to trim up the tree and deck the halls, but there’s a melancholy about the season for anyone remembering loved ones who have laid down their lives for us to freely celebrate whatever holidays we want.


The Last Word

The Road to Arkansas Tort Reform

By Carl Vogelpohl

In 2018, Arkansas voters have the opportunity to enact meaningful civil justice “tort” reform.  A coalition representing a diverse group of Arkansans, including the Arkansas Trucking Association, has banded together to take a stand against out-of-control trial lawyers.  This coalition wants to limit the financial windfall reaped by trial lawyers who use the threat of unreasonable “nuclear verdicts” to unfairly harm truckers, small business owners, farmers, doctors and job creators in Arkansas. 

Studies show that the threat of unlimited verdicts hurts not just jobs in the trucking industry but all small businesses.  The Institute for Legal Reform notes that over three-quarters of small businesses fear they will be the target of unjustifiable lawsuits.  And The Wall Street Journal has noted that some insurers have dropped coverage in the past few years for certain types of fleets. And the rates for the coverage that has remained have skyrocketed. 


Up Front- Do Not Delay


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

This year has been marked with reflection over the past 85 years since the Shippers and Carriers Association of Arkansas was formed in 1932. While it might be easy to talk about how the Association took tough stances on issues that improved conditions for Arkansas carriers, it’s much harder to be the association that takes those tough positions and persuades others to come along. Sometimes, we’ve gotten it right and led the change, and other times, like when the Association opposed deregulation, we followed the change and learned to adapt.

On every issue ATA tackles, we want to be on the right side of history.  The questions we always ask are these: Does this improve safety? Does this make carriers more efficient, more profitable or more risk averse? Does this protect our most valuable asset—professional drivers?

When the answers are yes, we don’t hesitate to stand out front, lead the discussion and speak to our legislators and other decision makers. Fortunately, on ELDs, we have been heard by those in Washington.


The Last Word

The Road to Recovery

By Tracy Rosser

Editor’s Note: As reports continue to come in that Puerto Ricans are without enough water, food, health care and electricity almost a month after Hurricane Maria tore through the island and residents of Houston and Florida are still expecting months of cleanup, the wheels of trucks have not stopped rolling with trailers full of supplies for relief and rebuilding. Walmart especially has been a leader in delivering aid in the recovery efforts. ATA would like to thank every company who reached out to help our fellow Americans despite logistics challenges, pouring money, manpower, and equipment everywhere the waters rose. We are proud to represent an industry that carries hope into hurting communities.

When Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria made landfall in August and September of this year, they impacted millions of people in their path, destroying homes, knocking out power and flooding towns as they crawled across the Caribbean, Gulf and Atlantic coasts – forever changing the lives of those who live and work in these areas.

Our associates responded to these emergencies with a level of outstanding service that is simply admirable. Throughout Walmart’s 55-year history, we’ve been known for our low prices and for revolutionizing the retail industry. We’ve also applied what we’ve learned in serving thousands of communities across America in how we respond to major disasters and helping people when they need it.

One group that helps us step up during disasters is our drivers, who are part of the largest and safest private fleet in the industry. On any typical day across our country, you see our trucks on the road and the hard work of our drivers in action. Their commitment to service is amazing: Together, our drivers travel more than 700 million miles annually to deliver countless loads of merchandise to Walmart and Sam’s Club locations across the nation.


Up Front- Rays of Light


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Last week, around 1:18 pm, people gathered on the sidewalk outside the office, passing around pairs of funny cardboard glasses, to crane their necks back and look skyward for the solar eclipse.

Because Arkansas didn’t lie in the path of totality, only 90% of the sun was covered. Ninety percent sounds like a lot, but unless you had the right lenses, the day wasn’t that much different than any other day. Crescent shadows fell on the pavement, and the light was a little dimmer than any other sunny afternoon, like a storm was rolling in but without a cloud in the sky.

Even just ten percent of the sun’s light still made for a mostly bright, hot, summer day.

For our cover story this issue, I got to spend an inspiring morning with Laura Lane, the president of global public affairs at UPS.  She talked about her life and her stance on policies important to the industry, but what I walked away from that meeting with was a sense of hopefulness, that every challenge has a silver lining if you are wearing the right lenses.


The Last Word

Slow Down Speed Limit Increases

By Matt Hart

On Aug. 8, a new law went into effect in Arkansas, allowing the Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit on some major highways to 75 mph. So far, no speed limits have actually changed, but engineers are studying the traffic patterns and road designs to determine where and if the speed limits should be raised.

We’ve been asking ‘how fast can we go?’ on highways all around the country. Questions asked less often: Is it safe? Is it worth it? How do you know?

While Arkansas may choose not to go any faster on any of its 16,432 highway miles, DOT is slowing down to ask the right questions.

In my state, Illinois, I’ve seen this speed limit debate go on for nearly two decades.  The Illinois Trucking Association (ITA) fought for years for uniform speed limits after enduring many years where the speed limit was 55 for trucks and 65 for cars.  Legislation initiated by our Association in 2011 finally closed that speed limit differential to 65 mph for all vehicles, with a couple of exceptions near Chicago.


Up Front- Sisyphean Task


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

When I sit down to write this column, I usually pick up my pom-poms and megaphone, taking on the role of industry cheerleader. I let you know where we are in the game, if we are chanting “D-E-F-E-N-S-E!” or “S-C-O-R-E!”

Usually, I’ve got good news. Our bill was passed. We got through to our legislators or the public. We did a good deed. We’ve set new goals. We celebrated a new milestone. We launched a new program.

This time, instead of good news, I’ve got perspective. For all the times fighting for the industry feels like political football, it isn’t the kind of game where the buzzer sounds, the ice chest is upended and we all go home.

The work is never really over, and I am reminded of that each time highway funding gets pushed further down on the agenda or when I open my inbox to misinformation about the industry and what we contribute.


The Last Word

Self-Driving Prophecy

By David O'Neal CDS

Some headlines predict “Robot trucks could replace 2 million drivers by 2030;” some titles ask “Trucks with no drivers?” Others just report our anxieties “From cowboys to robots: truckers wary of autonomous rigs.”

Truckloads of ink and more than a few bytes of data have been (and will continue to be) generated on the subject of how autonomous technology will affect the role of truck driver. Is there a signal in all this noise?

Here is what we know: (1) The trucking industry continues to deal with a shortage of qualified drivers; (2) Technology doesn’t just evolve, it often appears to make exponential leaps forward; (3) Much of the necessary technology already exists and is in use across all types of vehicles; and (4) Up to 90% of all vehicle crashes are the result of human error.


2017 Arkansas Trucking Championship



Truck Driving Championship Winners   Technician Championship Winners

ATA would like to thank all the volunteers, sponsors, vendors, drivers, technicians, and fans that helped to make the 2017 Arkansas Trucking Championship the biggest to date!


Up Front- Eighty-five Candles


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

I wish I could put 85 candles on a cake and pass out slices frosted with chocolate and sprinkles to all of you because this is a big deal. As we prepare to celebrate the trucking association’s milestone anniversary, I can’t help but reflect on how amazing it is that our organization has been around for eight and a half decades.

Every day, we read about another industry on the verge of extinction. Progress comes along and renders someone’s job or even an entire industry obsolete. It makes the world better, safer, faster, more inclusive, but at the cost of careers, people who built their livelihood and identity around operating switchboards, mining coal, building shopping malls, delivering milk to neighborhood porches or renting out the latest blockbuster movies.


The Last Word

The Power of Association

By Butch Rice

Twelve years ago, I received a call asking me to be on the Arkansas Trucking Association’s board of directors. It was one of the proudest moments of my career. I didn’t think anything could top that honor until two years ago when I accepted the baton passed from Craig Harper, COO of J.B. Hunt, as the chairman of the board.

During my time as chairman, I have tried to model the ATA’s mission statement: protect the collective interests of the industry, promote how essential trucks are to every community, and serve the members of the association so we are all better and more profitable than we were the year before.


Up Front-High Gear


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

The Regular Session of the 91st Arkansas General Assembly convened on January 9, 2017. The following days of the legislative session are some of the busiest days of the year for Arkansas Trucking Association.

All year, we listen to our members’ challenges in the state and identify ways we can address those challenges, and while the wheels of ATA are always moving forward, we tend to swing into high gear when our elected officials come to town.

One of the biggest issues our carrier members are currently facing is the financial uncertainty stemming from litigation following an accident. You may have seen the headlines about “nuclear verdicts” bankrupting small businesses and driving up settlement and insurance costs for even the safest carriers. Right now, there is a real opportunity to improve the legal climate in the state which will enable job growth and economic improvement.



The Last Word

The Trouble with Tolls

By Stephanie Kane

For transportation professionals, 2017 is shaping up to be a year of tolling. President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan relies on tax credits to entice the private sector to build revenue-needy projects, which would undoubtedly lead to more tolls. It’s great to see the President recognizing the need for investment, but relying on tax credits that spur privatization as the main funding mechanism for any nationwide plan will fail to close the national infrastructure deficit. At the state level, elected officials are pushing for tolling existing interstates in Rhode Island, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI) was formed to oppose such tolling efforts and educate the public about the many negative impacts that tolling existing interstates has on our communities and businesses.



Up Front- Tidings of Great News


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

The bad news first: We saw everyone's ugliest side over the last 18 months as candidates fought for competing solutions to problems in the economy, foreign policy, the environment, protecting human rights, but mostly with each other. It is apparent that Americans are still divided on an awful lot.

But the good news is the election and the time for talking about hypothetical policy is over.

And the better news? The list of divisive issues for Americans is long, but infrastructure is not on that list. Pres.-elect Trump has promised to invest $1 trillion into repairing and improving the highways, bridges, railways and airports and to do it ourselves: "Buy American and hire American." And everyone, no matter who you voted for, wants to see if and how he can do it.

Politico's Infrastructure Survey found that 80 percent of registered voters agreed that passing an infrastructure bill should be a "top" or "important priority for the federal government." There's more consensus for the urgency of fixing roads than there was for either candidate because a collapsing bridge doesn't care whose name is on your bumper sticker.


The Last Word

An Ode to Trade

By Michael L. Ducker

We have just experienced an extraordinary election, and as with the aftermath of any major electoral change, it will take some time to sort out all of the implications to U.S. policies and programs, such as trade.

I hope we can all agree that for the United States, trading with the world isn't just an option. It's a necessity. Ninety five percent of the world's consumers are outside our borders. We have to find ways to reduce barriers to U.S. goods and services around the world so that we can reach new consumers, grow our domestic economy, and strengthen the bottom line for American families.

The fact is trade is good for--and critical to--the American economy. Exports create new markets for American-made products while imports help American families stretch their budgets by providing more choices and lower prices. Although the U.S. is the world's largest economy, 92 percent of global economic growth and 80 percent of the world's purchasing power are outside of the U.S., according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Up Front- How We Say It


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

We Americans love our freedom. An inalienable right, it is baked into our national identity. We are emotionally attached to making our own decisions, being our own bosses, ruling our own domains. Even when it’s not in our best interest, we cling to freedoms like eating too much or driving too fast.

So it should come as no surprise that many in the trucking industry are squirming after reading the recent proposal from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to equip heavy-duty vehicles with devices that limit their speeds on U.S. roadways and require those devices be set to a maximum speed.

Safety is the cornerstone that allows our industry to prosper. Unsafe behaviors or policies raise the risks on the roads that our families travel, they cost our industry time and money, and they endanger our most scarce, costly and valuable resource—our employees. So the notion that the trucking industry is anything other than an advocate for safe driving and roadways is baseless.

However, that notion is one we must be constantly vigilant against when opposing regulations that make us uncomfortable. Anti-trucking groups masquerading as safety advocates are always looking for ways to paint our legislative and regulatory agenda as anything but beneficial for public safety.


The Last Word

Undecided Voters may be Running out the Clock

By Bill Vickery

So now what? Have you decided? Has this election “grabbed” you yet?

If there’s anything certain about this presidential election, it’s that uncertainty remains its central theme.

The narrative is clear. This is an election unlike any other. But with only about three weeks left before ballots are cast, undecided voters must make up their minds. The answers to several important questions may finally convince them to make a choice. Or the tabloid style campaigning (and let’s not be hypocritical here, both sides—even us simple voters—are full throttle into this type of campaigning…even if it sometimes makes us feel like we’re slowing down to look at a wreck on the side of the road) may drive many Americans to just skip voting in the presidential election.


Up Front- The Coin Toss


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Finally! It’s almost over. And I can hardly contain my excitement. Like so many of you, with the end in sight, I found myself asking, “Is it over yet?”

Oh wait, did you think I was referring to the never-ending presidential election campaign?

I’m talking about something much more pleasant... football.

After 7 months without anything more than spring football, media days and those surely meaningless preseason polls, the anticipation is over.

I forgive you for thinking I was writing about the presidential campaign though. I feel your pain. I suspect—whether right, left or somewhere in between—it is wearing on us all.


The Last Word

Delivering the Good News of Safety

By David O’Neal

You’ve read a lot about safety in the preceding pages. You’ve seen coverage of the trucking championships, both in Arkansas and at the national level – possibly the best and most tangible illustration of highway safety, given the 156 drivers who competed in Arkansas, all at least one year accident free and many with decades of blemish-free driving. Add to that the 430+ drivers from all 50 states who competed at the NTDC in Indianapolis. You read a feature on Arkansas Highway Police Major Jay Thompson – a man who has devoted his career to keeping our highways safe.

Those things are all about the good news of safety! A celebration of safety! Recognition of a safety-focused career!

Yet when I started writing this, I was headed down a path well-trod directives by safety professionals everywhere: Don’t drive distracted. Never drive impaired. How can you make safety more important to your organization? Etc. Ad nauseum.


Up Front- Happy Birthday, Highways.


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways turns 60 this summer. It has been called the most ambitious public works project since the age of the Roman Empire and is literally the backbone of America’s economy.

The construction of the interstate system has had a profound effect upon the American economy and contributed significantly to improved economic efficiency and productivity. The completion of the interstate system by the 1980s, coinciding with deregulation of the trucking industry, resulted in significant gains in the competitiveness of U.S. businesses.

Continuous improvement and innovation have today made "just in time" delivery widespread, mobile inventories the norm, resulting in the nation’s trucks literally becoming rolling warehouses. Growing demand has driven logistics to become increasingly efficient, including just-in-time delivery, increased small package delivery, demand-side inventory management and e-commerce.


Trucking Delivers . . . or Everything Stops

Arkansas Trucking Association TV Spot from Arkansas Trucking Association on Vimeo.










The Last Word

The Road to Diversity

By Jeff Fleming, Guest Writer

Recently I was interviewed by Arkansas Business for an article entitled Trucking Firms Work To Diversify Industry.” I talked about how minority representation in the industry was lacking and we have a long way to go to close the gap. I am a believer that if you identify a problem, you should offer a solution.

Let me share with you a few thoughts on how we can attract and retain diverse talent in the trucking industry. First, the commitment to diversify the workforce must come from the people seated at the highest levels of the organizations. They must give the green light and be an active sponsor to build the roadmap to make this happen.


Up Front- Win the War


Shannon Newton
President, ATA

Hi, my name is Shannon, and I am a Type A, competitive strategist. I like to win, a lot. Others might say I’m driven, ambitious or determined. But really, I just want to win.

I’m hardly alone. Many of my peers, in business and politics, share this trait.

Usually this characteristic is beneficial in our professional world, focusing individuals, pushing them to attain desired results.

At times however, we all stumble over our will to win. We lose sight of the war, for the battle right in front of us. We bicker over strategy and tactics. It’s not enough to simply win; we want our approach to deliver the victory.


The Last Word

We’re All in Sales Now.

By Tom RicciardoneGuest Writer

I had the opportunity last year to participate on the selection panel for the inaugural Arkansas Road Team. Patterned after America’s Road Team, it is a public outreach program of professional truck drivers who share superior driving skills, remarkable safety records and a passion to spread the word about highway safety

I’ve written elsewhere that I feel very fortunate that in my communications work for the industry I’m able to spend time with truck drivers.


Fighting Modern-Day Slavery from the Road

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Truckers Against Trafficking enlists the trucking industry to the effort to end human trafficking

By Jennifer Barnett Reed, Contributing Writer

Kevin Kimmel could have just minded his own business that cold January morning. He could have looked the other way, told himself the men knocking on the door of the RV parked two slots down from him behind the truck stop was none of his business. He could have explained away the scared face of the girl who peeked briefly out from behind the RV’s closed curtains before someone jerked them closed again. He could have just closed his own truck cab’s curtains and gotten some sleep after a long night of driving and deliveries.

Instead, he listened to his gut and made a phone call. A few minutes later, he watched as police knocked on the door of the RV parked two slots down from him at the rural Virginia truck stop where he’d stopped to rest. He watched as the scared, emaciated young woman came out and talked to the officers. Watched as they called an ambulance to take her away and as they handcuffed the other two people in the RV, a man and woman. 

Kimmel, then a driver for Con-way Freight, learned later that the young woman was a victim of human trafficking. The couple police arrested had kidnapped her in another state, and for two weeks they had tortured her, starved her, raped her, and sold her for sex as they traveled from truck stop to truck stop.

Kimmel’s phone call most likely saved her life. Because of his decision to get involved, the young woman is now back home with her family, and her kidnappers are in federal prison. 

Back in January 2015, Kimmel had never heard of Truckers Against Trafficking, a nationwide organization that works to leverage the eyes and ears of truck drivers and other industry employees in the fight against human trafficking. He hadn’t been taught what signs to look for, and he didn’t know about the national hotline he could have called to make an anonymous report. He might not have even thought to use the phrase “human trafficking” to describe what he was seeing. But he did exactly what Truckers Against Trafficking’s founders hope to empower all truck drivers and truck stop employees to do: He kept his eyes open, and he told someone what he saw.

“That’s the power of the trucking industry recognizing [trafficking] and doing something about it,” said Kylla Lanier, the organization’s co-founder and deputy executive director.

Human trafficking is a worldwide problem that reaches into just about every industry, Lanier said. Lanier is a former teacher and missionary, but she and her mother and sisters were moved to found Truckers Against Trafficking after reading a book about the issue and realizing what a powerful force truck drivers and truck stop employees could be in the effort to free victims of modern-day slavery.

Since the organization was founded in 2009, it has partnered with almost every state trucking association in the United States, as well as national trucking associations, major corporations, law enforcement agencies, trucking schools and other groups. It provides DVDs, informational wallet cards, posters and other materials at no cost, and to date has registered more than 166,000 trucking industry employees as “TAT trained.”

Kimmel is now one of them.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me,” Kimmel said. “Since then I’ve followed Truckers Against Trafficking and have helped however I can.”

Joining the Cause

The Arkansas Trucking Association is one of the latest state trucking associations to formally partner with Truckers Against Trafficking. Lanier spoke to the ATA Safety Management Council in December, and attendees “wiped out” a box of training materials, Lanier said.

 “Everybody in that room committed in whatever way they could,” she said. Trucking companies promised to train all their employees, and an insurance company representative asked for training materials to pass out to the company’s carrier clients.

TATinfographicTruckers Against Trafficking has three goals, Lanier said. First, they want to reach the trucking industry through every avenue possible. They work with trucking schools, national and state trucking associations, carriers, even shippers who contract with carriers and are in a position to influence them to include TAT training for their drivers.

Second, they work with law enforcement to get them into the same room with key trucking industry stakeholders for training sessions.

And third, they want to marshal the resources of the trucking industry to help in the fight against human trafficking. A number of major national companies have already signed on as corporate sponsors, Lanier said.

The trucking industry is in a unique position to help fight human trafficking, said Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association.

“It takes advantage of truck drivers’ expertise, where they spend their time, where they do their work, in order to leverage that and be good citizens,” Newton said. “We want our drivers to be equipped with information and know what to look for and whom to call. They might see something but don’t want to be perceived as a tattletale. So having this centralized hotline specifically targeted toward human trafficking gives drivers the opportunity to say ‘This is what I saw.’ It gives them a safe place to call and try to be proactive and helpful.”

The hotline — 888-373-7888 — is run by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. It is staffed around the clock, and drivers don’t have to share their personal information or speak directly to law enforcement if they don’t want to.

The TAT training is simple, but it’s proving to be very effective. Kimmel’s may be the best-known story of a truck driver helping identify a victim of human trafficking, but it’s far from the only one.

Lives saved

Already, more than 1,200 calls have come to the national hotline from the trucking industry — calls that helped identify close to 400 possible cases of human trafficking involving 692 victims, 234 of whom were minors.

“It’s working,” Lanier said. “We get to hear really cool things.” In Ontario, Calif., she said, a security guard at a truck stop who’d been trained using Truckers Against Trafficking’s materials noticed suspicious activities going on at a motel across the street. After he called the hotline, law enforcement arrested three traffickers and recovered several victims — including a minor.

The warning signs of human trafficking can be subtle, Lanier said. A lot of times, people who appear to be voluntarily working as prostitutes are actually under the control of a pimp. They may have been coerced or forced into prostitution initially and kept there by threats or beatings. If the person is a minor, she said, that’s the only thing that matters: Under federal law, anyone under the age of 18 who is being sold for sex is a victim of human trafficking.

The woman may be bruised, or talk about needing to make a certain amount of money before she can go home. She may have a branding tattoo — something as blatant as a bar code, or phrases like “cash only,” “Daddy’s girl,” “money maker,” even just the pimp’s name.

“They brand them like cattle a lot of times,” Lanier said.

Drivers might also notice two women — one older, one younger — going together from truck to truck or into a motel. The older one might be working for the trafficker — a victim herself, told she has to train the younger one. The trafficker might drop someone off at the cab of a truck and come back 15 minutes later to pick her up. There might be, as in Kevin Kimmel’s case, a van or an RV parked where it wouldn’t normally be, with men coming in and out of it.

“We got a tip from a trucker’s wife about a van at a truck stop in Brownsville, Texas,” Lanier said. “Men were purchasing girls brought over the border.”

Lanier understands that drivers might be reluctant to get involved. That’s why the hotline is completely confidential. What they need to do in return, though, is try to give as much information about the situation as they can to the hotline so law enforcement will have enough details to take action, Lanier said: Location, time, exactly what’s happening, any license plate numbers or vehicle descriptions.

The trucking industry’s response and willingness to get involved sets it apart, Lanier said, and both Congress and the United Nations have taken notice of its efforts.

“Sex trafficking and labor trafficking happen in every industry around the world,” she said. “It is the trucking industry that has stood up and said ‘We’re not going to bury our heads. We’re going to do something about it.’”

For more information, visit

Make it Better. Faster. Stronger.

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Could’s logistics network compete with the trucking industry?

By Bethany May, Managing Editor


In December, news broke that, the nation’s largest internet retailer, had purchased a fleet of shipping trailers. Within a few weeks, there were rumors that the e-commerce company had also acquired a fleet of cargo planes to connect its large network of warehouses around the country. And on January 15, the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission granted Amazon a license to operate cargo shipments between China and the U.S.

Before many of us had taken down all the Christmas decorations and remembered to hang the new calendar, Amazon had begun to take control of its own operations on the land, in the air and at sea. And while there still is no clearance for commercial drones to operate deliveries in the U.S., the Seattle-based company has already been exploring that option in anticipation of the federal regulations that have yet to be written.

There’s a lot of speculation about what it means for transportation when one of the largest retailers in the country starts making logistical changes. The headlines have ranged from “Here’s How Amazon Could Offer Its Own Delivery Service and Crush UPS and FedEx” and “’s Next Move Could Be Bigger Than the iPhone,” to “No, Amazon Isn’t Planning to Kill FedEx” and “Amazon Logistics & The Soon to Fail Experiment.”

What is hyperbole and what are the real effects that Amazon’s operations decisions will have on the industry? Should we have expected these changes?

Brent Williams, chair of the department of supply chain management at the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business says, “I think in a lot of ways, it's not surprising.”

“It's not unusual for a large retailer to start to bring some of their transportation needs under their own control,” he says. “We see it with other large retailers, where they have large private fleets and then a large part of their transportation business is outsourced to other carriers.”

The more important question he wants us to ask is “What is going on in retail right now as an industry that is going to change trucking business?”

For Williams, the answer is omnichannel fulfillment.

If you’re thinking, omnichannel what? Williams defines the term like this: “This really means that shoppers can purchase across a retailer’s platforms in many different ways. That means in stores. It means online. It means mobile. Maybe even more specifically, it means, those channels can blur.”

The way that customers increasingly want more options for not just what they buy, but how they buy is what can drive changes to the system.

And that customer as catalyst is echoed in Amazon’s comments about their new fleets, “We are always looking for ways to innovate for customers. These new trailers empower Amazon to speed up order delivery times for customers and offer later order cut-off times by increasing capacity for Amazon package delivery between fulfillment centers.”

Increased control over its delivery network seems like a natural extension of the company’s custom-focused philosophy on innovation.

Williams agrees that certain retail trends show consumers demanding more personalization, and when it comes to delivery, consumers are not only demanding faster, but they are also demanding delivery within specific time windows.

“For example, if I work 8-5 in the office and get home at 6,” Williams explains, “and I'm getting groceries delivered to my door. I really don't want them delivered at 10 am.”

Amazon Fresh offers the service Williams references, and it isn’t alone. Walmart and other grocers are delivering products that once only shut-ins and the elderly may have ordered.

Retail History in the Making

E-commerce itself, with at the helm, is changing freight business because the model allows consumers to have more say in fulfillment and delivery.

“If you look at the retail industry, it has kind of gone from mom and pop general store in a local community to a period in the 60s or 70s when the department store was king. Then, in the 80s, when mass retailers and big box retailers started to roll out, you started to see a consolidation in the industry.”

Now, the pull of e-commerce and the increased power of the consumer deconsolidates the retail systems of the past.

“In some ways, the revolution feels a little bit unprecedented,” Williams says.

“There are people out there that say, ‘The brick and mortar store is going to die,’ and I couldn't disagree with that more. I do think that the role of the brick and mortar store changes over time. And it becomes more integrated with a retailer's digital interface with the customer,” Williams explains.

“I think about subscription services from or or whoever that is, the way that we start to have good ready-for-pick-up-at-store or site-to-store services. All of that is leading me to say that shipments are going to continue to be decreasing in size.”

So while the headlines about Amazon’s delivery service sinking other carriers like FedEx and UPS seem far-fetched, the impact of internet retailers responding to the demands for faster and smaller deliveries is real.

How will the networks have to split an order to still get efficiencies?

Williams predicts that the networks are going to shift in some way, but he is hesitant to say how. “I don't know exactly how. I think that to maintain efficiency, those retailers and transportation companies have to collaborate and actually have to share data.”

Faster isn’t Free.

During Christmas of 2013, peak shipping season, disappointed customers found that thousands of packages wouldn’t be delivered until December 26. Even if the packages contained horseshoes or hand grenades, almost on time really doesn’t count on Christmas morning.

Analysts speculated that when Amazon’s carriers couldn’t keep up with demand during its peak, it was inevitable that new solutions would have to be found.

Covenant Transportation Group executive commented in January on news that Amazon was acquiring its own trailers. The company works closely with Amazon, specializing in expedited shipments.

"They're growing so dramatically that it's hard for anybody to keep up with what they are doing in the marketplace," said Joey Hogan, Covenant's CEO, on the company's quarterly earnings call. "They need every truck they can get their hands on."

Doug Voss, associate professor at the University of Central Arkansas, explains that there are two reasons to start a private fleet: 1) the company has enough volume to do its shipping cheaper and/or 2) the company has strict enough service needs that existing carriers can’t meet those needs.

As Amazon continues to add subscribers to its prime service, more customers are promised free two-day shipping on a large percentage of the website’s offerings. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners reported the number of Amazon Prime memberships increased 35 percent in 2015 to a total of 54 million, almost half of American households.

Amazon’s existing carriers couldn’t meet service needs December 2013, and as more online shoppers learn to expect free two-day shipping, the risk that there’s another service failure increases.

Brent Williams has been conducting soon-to-be-published research on customer preference and expectation when there is a stock outage at a brick and mortar store. Looking at the influence of speed and the influence of convenience, his research team found that preference is for speed when replacing that out-of-stock item. Williams argues that there’s a dissonance between consumer demand for speed and an understanding of how much it costs.

“I think a real question has to be asked of ourselves as consumers, how much of the speed are we willing to pay for? Right now, so much of the cost in online from a shipping standpoint is not exposed to us as the consumer, so if I expect free shipping, in reality, we know that the shipping really isn't free.”

Whether speedy shipping costs are passed on to the customer in a transparent, line-item way in the future is anyone’s guess, but customers don’t seem to mind the fee rolled into a subscription service.

They do seem to want their deliveries even faster than the two days allowed in Prime membership shipments; Amazon has recently rolled out one hour delivery on certain orders in select cities.

So how does Amazon’s race to the customer affect trucking?

Amazon won’t be putting trucking companies out of business, but if we do see Amazon as a new player in the logistics market, there could certainly be a real impact based on the size and influence of a company like Amazon.

Voss doesn’t see Amazon clearing the obstacles of building a sophisticated carrier empire any time soon, particularly when it comes to drones. “This is a somewhat pie in the sky thing. It sounds good. It’s a great idea, but there are so many regulatory hurdles that [they] will have to jump.”

The circumstances for this to really be a game changer?

“IF” he stresses, “it’s successful on a large scale, then there could be an impact on the industry. It will have some impact, for some carriers, in some lanes.” He emphasizes the qualifier some.

Williams agrees that it’s too hyperbolic to call Amazon’s entry into the industry a “game changer” or “disruption.”

“My view tends to be that it will increase competition, and I actually think that it will make the carriers even better at what they do. But I suspect that anytime that you introduce competition, the margin is just going to get more efficient. The really good carriers are going to respond to that.”

To compete, carriers may have to offer a broader set of solutions to their customers. “Because the way that retailers were shipping 10 years ago may not be the way that they are going to be shipping now or in 5 years from now,” Williams says.

Instead, he urges carriers to think beyond the possibility of competition with Amazon. “I think the thing to be thinking about if I'm a transportation executive is the way the shopper is buying, giving them power will affect the things will ship in some way, shape, or form. And carriers need to be able to create a broad enough portfolio of services or connect with the right companies that make them a part of that network.”

The bottom line is it’s “too early to tell,” Voss says. “We’ll just have to see how it all pans out.”

While it may be too early to forecast the disruption of freight as we know it, Amazon certainly seems to be taking advantage of all the tools in its belt and even creating some new ones to answer customer demand for “faster, faster.”

Rule Spells Out, Bans 'Coercion'

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New rule defines ‘driver coercion’ and demands lofty penalties for perpetrators

By Steve Brawner, Contributing Writer


 A new FMCSA rule is meant to protect drivers from being coerced to violate rules by carriers, shippers, receivers and intermediaries.

The rule works in carriers’ favor by discouraging shippers from trying to force drivers to violate hours-of-service limits, CDL rules, drug and alcohol testing rules, and regulations governing hazardous materials.

But it also applies to carriers, and that could be a problem, said Dean Newell, Maverick Transportation vice president of safety and training.

Carrier’s burden

“It kind of takes us out of the shipper saying, ‘This is the load, and if you want to continue doing business with us, you’re going to have to get it there.’ It stops all that stuff,” he said. “But on the flip side of that, it puts us right back in the middle of it. … If a driver’s disgruntled and he can make the accusation, then it’s up to us to do all the back office work in order to defend it. So to me, that’s not good.”

MAP-21, the nation’s previous surface transportation law passed in 2012, required the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to create such a rule, which went into effect Jan. 29. Under the rule, drivers must make a complaint about coercion within 90 days of the incident. Penalties can be as high as $16,000 per violation, which will be deposited into the Highway Trust Fund.

The agency’s fines are usually limited to 2 percent of a firm’s gross revenue. However, the Federal Register published Nov. 30 states, “FMCSA will take aggressive action when a violation of the prohibition against coercion can be substantiated. This action will include civil penalties consistent with the regulations, and may include initiation of a proceeding to revoke the operating authority of a for-hire motor carrier.”

The obvious concern is that drivers will make unsubstantiated claims for one reason or another. Prasad Sharma, an attorney partner at Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, which represents motor carriers and intermediaries, said the FMCSA took that possibility into account.

“I would hope that’s not a frequent occurrence, but I think that does happen, and I think FMCSA recognized that in the rulemaking,” he said. “In fact, it kind of went out of its way to say, ‘Well, we may not pursue all claims. That doesn’t mean they’re false claims. It just means they’re unsubstantiated.’”

The agency published its notice of proposed rulemaking May 13, 2014, and received 90 submissions. The American Trucking Associations supported a ban on coercion but expressed concern about the rule’s effect on motor carriers’ relations with shippers, receivers and brokers. Others worried about unintended consequences, such as unfair allegations made by drivers. Concerns were expressed regarding whether entities would have to inquire as to the number of hours a driver had driven.

Room for improvement

Richard Pianka, ATA general counsel, said his group was supportive of the concept but concerned about the details, such as how to define “coercion.” He said ATA was generally pleased with the way FMCSA addressed those concerns.

“We definitely don’t think that anybody should be urging drivers to violate the hours of service rules,” he said. “We think compliance of hours of service rules is important, and so we certainly support in general FMCSA taking steps to ensure that nobody’s pushing drivers to drive outside their hours. … It’s a new rule, and like any new rule, we’ll have to see exactly how it plays out in practice.”

The final rule was amended to require the driver to make a specific objection in order for coercion to occur. That was a good change from the ATA’s perspective, Pianka said, because it means carriers and shippers won’t be required to guess at how much time a driver has left. Instead, the driver must object at the time the request is made and will have to show coercion occurred.

Sharma, a former American Trucking Associations general counsel, said other improvements would have kept the regulation out of some gray areas. While he’s glad that drivers must affirmatively object to a potential rules violation, he wishes the FMCSA would have required them to record their objections in writing at the time of the alleged incident. Such a move would help resolve disputes, he said.

Asked if a driver could be expected to do that in the moment, he said, “It seems to me if the driver is concerned enough that there’s going to be a violation, asking the driver to put that down at the time they’re making the objection would not be too far a step.”

Maverick’s Newell said the rule was needed in order for the FMCSA to implement its new rule requiring motor carriers to install electronic logging devices in trucks, a measure Maverick and the Arkansas Trucking Association support.

But he is also concerned about potential unforeseen effects.

“We’ve always been good when the driver said, ‘I’m tired;’ we just automatically shut them down,” he said. “My biggest fear, though, is, ‘OK, well, we shut them down and they miss a load that was going to get them home, are they going to construe that as coercion?”

One area that’s clear: A shipper or receiver can order a driver off its property, even if the driver claims he’s out of hours, without being guilty of coercion. The rule recognizes that property owners have a right to control access to their property, Sharma said.

Coercion count

The Federal Register documents that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had determined that 253 whistleblower complaints against employers from 2009 through 2012 by drivers had merit (out of 1,158 complaints), while FMCSA had validated 20 allegations by drivers that they had been coerced by carriers (out of 91 complaints). Those complaints were all against employers, while the rule also applies to shippers, receivers and brokers.

The Register reported that drivers testifying at FMCSA listening sessions and before Congress said they were being coerced by carriers, shippers, receivers and others to deliver loads that would force them to violate hours of service and other regulations, or to operate vehicles with mechanical problems.

“The consequences of their refusal to do so are either stated explicitly or implied in unmistakable terms: Loss of a job, denial of subsequent loads, reduced payment, denied access to the best trips, etc.,” the Register said.

For carriers, it’s long been illegal to try to coerce a driver to violate rules, so the new rule may not be a “sea change” for them, Sharma said.

However, the rule brings shippers, receivers and intermediaries under the FMCSA’s regulatory realm. Pianka said the ATA will be looking to see how much overlap there will be between this rule and existing whistleblower protections enforced by OSHA. He said the ATA is concerned about potential duplicative enforcement now that a new procedure and a new enforcement agency have been added to the mix.

“On the whole, we think that shippers and intermediaries and so on should be our partners,” he said. “We should all be committed to drivers operating within the rules, and this extends prohibitions that motor carriers have always been under.”

Bruce Carlton, president and CEO of the National Industrial Transportation League, a shipper group, said that while the rule’s initial draft was too vague, the final rule is “a perfectly livable solution.”

Under the rule’s original wording, a shipper could have violated the rule by telling one carrier that its driver’s potential hours of service violation forced it to find another carrier – the argument being that the first carrier was being “coerced” by the threat of a loss of future business. That possibility eventually was dropped in the final rule.

“There was sort of an ambiguous sense that having direct normal business conversations could somehow be deemed to be coercion, and our reading of the final rule says that a shipper or receiver can have those normal conversations that they would encounter with any service supplier, and not have that translated immediately into a coercion,” he said.

He said an example would be, “You keep sending me drivers who only have 30 minutes left on their hours of service. I’ve got a seven-hour haul here. Why are you doing this?’”

“That’s not coercion,” he said. “That’s just saying, ‘Look, we need a better relationship between our companies.’”

For safety’s sake

He said shippers, like carriers, have no interest in taking actions that result in a safety issue or rules violation. “Bluntly, if there is a bad shipper out there who is in fact twisting arms on a driver to violate a rule, well, maybe that shipper should be taken out of the picture, right?” he said. “The highways are there to service the trade, and we all want them to be as safe as possible.”

Chris Burroughs, senior government affairs manager with the Transportation Intermediaries Association, said the FMCSA did listen to the various groups’ concerns as it improved its original approach. Changes eliminated what he called a “known or should have known” provision that placed too much responsibility on shippers, receivers and intermediaries who could not be expected to know what rules a driver would potentially violate. That rule would have been potentially perilous for intermediaries, whose industry standard is to avoid direct communication with drivers.

“In the proposed rule, they wanted the brokers to reach out to the carriers or to the specific driver and say, ‘Hey, do you have enough hours for this?’ We strongly oppose our guys doing that,” he said.

Maverick’s Newell said in an interview Jan. 11 that his company doesn’t “foresee a huge problem internally on our company.” The carrier had already started having classes to train employees on how to comply with the rule. Executives and operations personnel were practicing responses to various scenarios.

“Everybody’s got to be on the same page. … It needs to be a consistent message across the board,” he said. “‘We are not going to do this.’ ‘This cannot be said like this.’ Things like that.”

He said that, as with other areas of trucking, communication and relationships will be important in successfully navigating the regulatory environment. Maverick’s technology enables its back office employees to estimate how many hours a driver has been on the road. It’s accurate to the point where the driver approved his logs, and an internal system has been built that can predict when a driver will arrive at the destination. It can predict hours of service accurately, but not exactly. So the carrier must still communicate with the person operating the 80,000-pound vehicle, and for that communication to occur successfully, trust must be built.

“People forget, this is still a people business,” he said. “People come first. You’ve got to have relationships with the drivers.”

The Arkansas Top 10


ATRI’s reports top ten trucking concerns in Arkansas

Rebecca M. Brewster, Guest Writer

Trucking is big business in Arkansas. The industry employs over 82,000 individuals in the state, meaning one out of every 12 employees statewide has a trucking-related job. And, trucks transport more than 80 percent of manufactured freight moved in the state.

It’s clear the trucking industry matters to Arkansas. So, with an industry that important, what are the issues of most concern to motor carriers in the state? The annual Top Industry Issues Survey provides some insight.

Since 2005, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has been surveying motor carriers and commercial drivers nationwide to identify those issues which have the greatest impact on the industry. And, for each issue identified in the survey, industry stakeholders are also asked to rank potential strategies for addressing each. The annual survey results are released every October, and the 2015 results show some disparities in ranking the issues between the national results and those generating from Arkansas-based motor carriers.

 First, there are similarities between the rankings. Arkansas motor carriers agree with their peers across the country that the top five issues confronting the industry are regulatory- (HOS, CSA), workforce- (Driver Shortage and Driver Retention) and infrastructure- (Truck Parking) related. But the rankings of those top five issues highlight some differences.

Workforce Woes

Arkansas motor carriers place a higher ranking, or level of concern, on the workforce issues of Driver Shortage and Driver Retention. Given that Arkansas is home to five of the nation’s largest for-hire motor carriers and two of the largest private fleets, this should not come as a surprise. Filling seats with qualified, safe drivers is a top priority for motor carriers large and small, and, once those driver positions are filled, keeping those drivers is critical. The American Trucking Associations estimates that the industry currently has a shortage of 48,000 drivers, with projections that the number will increase to 175,000 by 2024.  

The top strategy for dealing with the driver shortage as ranked by respondents (Arkansas and nationally) is to work with state and federal authorities to consider a graduated CDL program to safely attract new and younger drivers. The $305 billion FAST Act, signed into law last December, allows the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a pilot program for 18-20 year olds to drive interstate if they have a military background that included truck driving experience.

As a way to address driver retention, Arkansas survey respondents ranked as their top strategy to study the effectiveness of carrier retention programs that financially incentivize drivers for performance in the areas of safety, fuel economy and trip productivity.

Regulation Frustration

Coming behind driver issues, Arkansas respondents ranked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program as their third top concern. A myriad of challenges with CSA likely resulted in its top five ranking both nationally and among Arkansas respondents.

A number of studies, including research by ATRI, have documented that CSA’s safety measures, the seven Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) under which carriers and drivers are scored, are not a good predictor of carrier crash risk. Additionally, there are disparities in how states collect and report safety performance data, and shippers are potentially misusing the data in the selection of carriers to haul freight.

This is another issue that was subsequently addressed in the five-year FAST Act. In it, Congress directed FMCSA to remove from public view motor carrier BASIC scores until the underlying issues with the Safety Measurement System (SMS) are corrected and additional research done to identify if the BASICs are accurate predictors of crash risk.

The top strategy identified in this year’s survey for addressing CSA is to push for a crash accountability determination process that removes non-preventable crashes from carrier scores. In November of last year, ATRI published a new study which investigated the impact that excluding non-preventable crashes would have on motor carrier CSA Crash Indicator BASIC measures. Among the fifteen carriers in ATRI’s analysis, the Crash Indicator BASIC decreased nearly 15 percent once a subset of five non-preventable crash types were removed.

The number one issue identified in the national survey and ranking fourth among Arkansas respondents was concern over the Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules. The HOS rules have topped the industry’s list of concerns for three consecutive years (2013-2015) and have been in the top five nationally since the survey was first conducted in 2005, driven primarily by the continued changes to and uncertainty surrounding the future of the rules; 2015 was no different.

While the industry experienced some relief in December of 2014 with the suspension of the Hours-of-Service (HOS) restart provisions which were originally put in to effect in July of 2013, the potential for reimplementation of the rules following the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) congressionally required study of the impacts of the provisions continues to generate concern.

Parking Panic

The number five issue, truck parking, continues to receive increased attention as the growing scarcity of available parking creates a dangerous situation for truck drivers who are often forced to drive beyond allowable HOS rules or park in undesignated and, in many cases, unsafe locations. As such, the top strategy ranked by survey respondents is to support and encourage investment in new truck parking facilities, while also encouraging states to reopen shuttered facilities.

And other worries

Among Arkansas respondents, concern over the state of the nation’s economy ranked sixth overall; on the national survey it came in as the eighth ranking issue. Other than the commercial driver HOS rules, the economy is the only issue to rank first on the list for three consecutive years (2009-2011), which it did during the Great Recession. In the 2014 survey, the economy dropped to ninth place but started to climb up as an issue in 2015. This may be driven, in part, by more recent concerns over softer freight demand and what that may mean for 2016, as well as concerns over the economies in Europe and Asia, and export impacts from a strong U.S. dollar.

Among Arkansas respondents, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate ranked seventh overall, one position lower than it did in the national results. In March 2104, FMCSA issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPR) to address a number of concerns identified by industry stakeholders in the initial ELD proposed rule. At the time the survey was conducted, the industry was still awaiting issuance of the final rule, likely keeping this issue in the top 10. The final rule has now been published by FMCSA and for the most part, the strategies identified by survey respondents for dealing with the issue have been addressed in the final rule. Those strategies included ensuring that the ELD mandate did not require that the devices be capable of creating hard-copy HOS records; grandfathering in existing devices installed by early adopters; and ensuring that the two-year implementation window not be extended.

With the final rule issued, the ELD mandate may see a change in ranking in the 2016 Top Industry Issues Survey (to be launched in August 2016) driven more by any remaining issues or concerns that carriers and drivers have as ELDs are deployed.

Driver health and wellness continues to climb in ranking, this year reaching seventh in the overall survey, its highest position to date. Many in the industry recognize the critical connection between improved driver health and wellness and the industry’s ability to retain qualified drivers. As such, more and more fleets are deploying health and wellness programs for their drivers.

The state of the nation’s transportation infrastructure ranked ninth in this year’s overall survey. The negative impacts of congestion, failing roads and bridges and the need for a long-term transportation funding solution all combined to keep this issue in the top ten in 2015. The top strategy for dealing with infrastructure as identified by survey respondents is to advocate for long-term highway funding through an increase in the fuel tax or other user fees, and prevent additional diversion of revenue to non-highway projects.

Finally, Arkansas respondents identified a different top 10 issue in tenth place – Drug and Alcohol Testing – with the top strategy identified as advocating for carriers to have the option of using hair samples in lieu of urine for some categories of required drug tests. This represents yet another issue that has subsequently been addressed in the FAST Act of 2015 which requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to set standards for hair testing.

The annual Top Industry Issues Survey provides an important indicator of where trucking’s attention is focused and which issues may rise to prominence in the near future. It’s an important tool for providing direction to industry groups at the state and national levels in terms of the issues and strategies that motor carriers and drivers believe will have the most impact on the industry for years to come. Armed with this information, state trucking associations and the American Trucking Associations are better equipped to address the issues more broadly and proactively.

ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research organization. It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system. A copy of the 2015 Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry report is available from ATRI at

Up Front- Take the Field


 Shannon Newton
 President, ATA

There is a universal rule in baseball about playing the outfield with a lead, especially a two-run lead in the bottom of the 9th. Under no circumstances can the ball be hit over an outfielder’s head. It’s called no-doubles defense.

In Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, the Texas Rangers were one strike away from defeating the St. Louis Cardinals and securing their first World Series championship.

Exceptionally talented, trained, professional athletes were in position. Rangers’ right-fielder Nelson Cruz’s positioning was a non-issue until the Cardinals’ David Freese swung at a 1-and-2 fastball with two runners on base.

The ball was hit directly toward Cruz. He reacted poorly, tried to recover unsuccessfully. Both runners scored on what became a triple for Freese. And the rest, as they say, is history. Both runners scored, extending the game. The Rangers went on to lose in extra innings and Game 7 as well.


The Last Word

We’re Gonna Do What They Say Can’t Be Done.

By Andy Davis, Guest Writer

After months of the Governor’s Highway Funding Work Group meetings, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced his proposals for additional highway funding to a large crowd on Tuesday January 19, 2016.

Some of the ideas presented in the working group are included in the Governors proposal. The plan includes transferring $4 million ($2.7 to the state, $1.3 to cities & counties) in existing diesel taxes from general revenue back to highways, $5.4 million in revenue from the ½ cent sales tax approved by voters that is currently directed to the central services fund. That is the fund that pays for elected official’s offices.


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  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
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