The Arkansas Trucking Association is holding its annual business conference May 18-20 in Little Rock.
The conference is doing something pretty cool this year to honor the many veterans who work for the state’s many trucking companies. ATA President Shannon Newton said approximately 25 percent of trucking industry employees are military veterans.
With that in mind, the ATA contacted its member companies and asked them to send in information about an employee who served in the military. The association plans to put together a slide show of all these employees, noting when and for which branch they served, to present before the keynote speech of the event May 19 at the Little Rock Marriott.
The honored veterans will also be invited to attend the conference at no charge, in the hope that all can be recognized in person along with the slide show. Normally, the Arkansas Trucking Association charges $300 per member for the conference, and the attending veterans will wear special badges to signify their contributions.
“All attendees can bring in one veteran to be recognized,” Newton said. “There is going to be a lot of pomp and circumstance.”
The appreciation for veterans will tie in neatly with the conference’s keynote speaker. Author Eric Blehm wrote “Fearless,” the biography of Arkansas native Adam Brown, who overcame personal troubles to become a Navy SEAL.
Brown was killed in action in March 2010 and was a recipient of the Bronze Star and Silver Star.
“It’s a story of redemption,” Newton said.
It’s no secret that the trucking industry is tied pretty tight to the military. J.B. Hunt Transport Services of Lowell participates in Wreaths Across America, and several Arkansas companies — including J.B. Hunt and Maverick Transportation of Little Rock — have pledged to hire veterans.
Newton said honoring veterans isn’t the only thing on the conference’s agenda. The three-day conference — with the third day dedicated to a golf tournament at Chenal Country Club in Little Rock — has a lineup of speakers about a variety of topics important in the transportation industry.
A year ago, in Hot Springs, speakers included Gov. Asa Hutchinson and financier T. Boone Pickens. This year scheduled speakers include Chairman Pat Thomas of the American Trucking Associations; CEO Steve Bryan of the technology company Vigillo; and analyst Jason Seidl of the Cowen Group, who covers many publicly traded companies based in Arkansas.
Newton was in Washington last week for the American Trucking Associations’ spring conference. Thomas, who is senior vice president of state government affairs at UPS, will return the favor.
“He’ll give the state of the industry address,” Newton said. “He’ll talk about what’s going on at the national level.”
One national issue that hopefully is on its way to resolution is the fate of the 34-hour restart. Language to avert its possible demise was included in a Senate appropriations bill.
Newton said Seidl should be a popular speaker because of the tougher economic times many transportation companies felt in the first quarter of the year. A sluggish manufacturing quarter was felt by truckers.
“With the way the economy is going, he is the one everyone is curious to hear,” Newton said. “People want to know what 2016 will look like for the transportation industry. It’s the issue at the top of the minds of executives. The industry is sensitive to any recession or economic lag. The roller coaster doesn’t go up forever.”
The conference is also a time for the ATA to take care of organizational business. A year ago, President Butch Rice of Stallion Transportation Group in Beebe was elected chairman of the board of directors.
Rice is expected to be re-elected to a second one-year term — chairmen can serve two terms — and the nomination committee of the board will submit two names for election. The board will have three openings because two professional members — Gary Salisbury and Tom Glaser — are leaving the board, as is Phil Mahoney of Great West Casualty Co.
Mahoney is one of two non-transportation appointees to the ATA board of directors.