Arkansas trucking group marks 85 years of advocating for the industry

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 98 views 

Members of the Arkansas Trucking Association and the trucking companies established in the state have understood the value of a collective voice, and while what’s best for one company might not always be good for another, industry leaders say the goal is the long-term good of the industry.

In May, Arkansas Trucking Association will celebrate its 85-year history at the organization’s annual conference. More than 300 people are expected to attend the 2017 ATA Business Conference & Vendor Showcase taking place May 3-4 at John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers.

“We usually grow by about 10% every year,” said ATA President Shannon Newton.

The keynote speaker will be Johnelle Hunt, co-founder of J.B. Hunt Transport Services. Hunt, who founded the Lowell-based carrier with her husband, Johnnie B. Hunt, in 1969, will speak at 3:30 p.m. May 4. She’ll tell the story of J.B. Hunt, how they become involved in the trucking association and its benefits, Newton said.

“We’re very much looking forward to that and have her join us.”

The overarching theme will be the celebration of the organization’s 85th anniversary and its history in the state. A special throwback edition of its publication, Arkansas Trucking Report, will feature former board members from as far back as 30 to 40 years ago, and it will be available at the event.

Chris Spear, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations, also plans to attend the event and will speak about the state of the industry and give an update on federal legislative priorities, including issues impacting the industry such as “infrastructure, tax and regulatory reform and driver-assist AV technology,” said Jeremy Kirkpatrick, spokesman for American Trucking Associations.

While he wasn’t in his existing position at the time, Spear previously spoke at the event in 2015, Newton said.

“This will be his first time addressing the Business Conference and Vendor Showcase as president and CEO of American Trucking Associations,” Kirkpatrick said.

Spear has been looking forward to attending the event and “meeting with the many carriers that move the Arkansas’ economy forward,” Kirkpatrick said. “As we engage on many policy issues at both the federal and state level, the growth and success of our industry depends on the strength of our federation of trucking associations working together in close partnership.”

Other speakers at the event will include economists and analysts, speaking on industry topics. Also, forums will be hosted on topics such as defending a lawsuit and addressing the diesel technician shortage.

Rebecca Brewster, president and chief operating officer for American Transportation Research Institute, the research arm of American Trucking Associations, will host a forum on truck parking challenges and possible solutions. Mike Cammisa, vice president of safety policy and connectivity for American Trucking Associations, will speak on autonomous truck policy. Also, Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) will talk about the bill he sponsored regarding platooning. State legislators approved the bill on April 1, and the law should go into effect in August.

The event will also include special tributes and awards to industry leaders and staff, and the board of directors for the trucking association will elect a new chairman. Between 18 and 24 vendors, many of whom are technology providers for the industry, will be at the conference as well.

“Technology is the latest and greatest thing,” Newton said.

The ATA’s annual conference was previously hosted in Rogers in 2008. Because the organization’s biggest event, the Arkansas Trucking Championship, also takes place in Rogers, the past two conferences were hosted in Branson, Mo. The other cities in which the conference is traditionally hosted are Hot Springs and Little Rock, which was where it took place last year.

The fee to attend is $400 per person for ATA members, or $600 for nonmembers. The fee includes “two days’ worth of events and lunches and drinks,” Newton said. “You can register at the door.” Or, register online.

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