Skylar Hatfield is no stranger to the trucking industry even at the age of 24.
Hatfield was recently hired to be the director of safety services by the Arkansas Trucking Association. She replaces David O’Neal, who resigned from the ATA in March to become vice president of safety at Roadrunner Transportation Services in Little Rock.
She had been working at Central Hauling, a subsidiary of CalArk of Little Rock.
While a student at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Hatfield was one of four college students named to the ATA’s 40 Under 40 Council in 2016 to inject some young life into the industry. Hatfield served two years on the council and graduated from UCA with a degree in logistics and supply chain management.
Hatfield’s appreciation and love for trucking come naturally. Her father, Loren, is a driver with ABF Freight in North Little Rock and was named the ATA’s state Driver of the Year in 2015. He has driven nearly 3 million accident-free miles in his career.
“We always joked that I didn’t really want to be a truck driver myself, but the industry is something that is very interesting to me,” Hatfield said. “I have been around it my whole life.”
When Loren Hatfield was studying for written exams for the state truck driving championship, Skylar Hatfield would ride in the cab and quiz her father as he drove. Doug Voss, an associate professor at UCA, taught Skylar Hatfield at UCA and called her an “exceptional student.”
“I would love to see the person who cares more about safety, and is more knowledgeable, than a girl whose father drives a truck and helped him study for exams where every question directly or indirectly deals with safety principles,” said Voss, also a member of the ATA board of directors. “Skylar is one of the most qualified, tough, knowledgeable individuals in our industry.”
When O’Neal decided to leave, he contacted Hatfield and told her about the job opening. He thought she would be perfect for the position. Hatfield later met with O’Neal and ATA President Shannon Newton and was hired at the start of April.
O’Neal came to the ATA in 2016 after the organization used a grant from the Arkansas Commercial Truck Safety & Education Program to start an Arkansas Road Team, which is a group of 12 drivers who act as goodwill ambassadors and make appearances around the state.
Loren Hatfield was an original captain on the first Arkansas Road Team.
As director of safety services, Hatfield said, her duties will be to keep current on laws and regulations in the trucking industry and to oversee the safety outreach programs such as the Arkansas Road Team.
“I’m pretty familiar with regulation, but it is always changing,” Skylar Hatfield said. “Getting to learn about it firsthand and be more involved with different committees has been a privilege. I’m learning more how everything is done.”
It is the same type of material Hatfield studied and learned in college. And like most recent graduates, she is learning even more stuff on the job.
Hatfield said working at the Arkansas Trucking Association puts her at the “forefront” of the industry and in a position to help drivers and companies in areas of safety.
“There are certain aspects that you learn in college,” Hatfield said. “Like everything else, it is completely different once you get out there and [learn] firsthand. I’ve been around the association for a very long time, and I’m familiar with the employees up here and it is appealing knowing what they have done.”
There is little doubt that Hatfield’s name helped get her started in the industry. Skylar Hatfield said her father regularly told her, after she decided to make trucking her career, that he could help her with his connections and network of people built over a long career.
Once she started, though, he told her it was going to be up to her.
“It’s funny because I will call my dad all the time and we talk about things,” Hatfield said. “We talk about hours of service and regulations all the time. My mom, poor thing, is left out a lot because she isn’t in any of the conversations. She tries, but it just doesn’t happen.”