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Over the coming decade, the Arkansas Trucking Association predicts that an additional 110,000 drivers will be needed annually to keep up with the industry’s demand. Though Arkansas ranks No. 1 as the per-capita employer of truck drivers, the top problem of the industry is a lack of such drivers.
This fall semester, the Arkansas Trucking Academy addressed the shortage and enrolled its first cohort of students.
The Arkansas trucking industry started in 1919 when transportation moved goods from agricultural stations across the state. As industries grew, trade commenced, and in the 1980s, trucking experienced a massive explosion of growth, and many of today’s most substantial Arkansas trucking companies developed. With leaders like J.B. Hunt, Harvey Jones, the Maverick and ArcBest companies, the state reputably leads the industry and serves as a gateway for much of the country’s transported goods.
As a state that catches the crossroads of traffic moving across the country, the Arkansas workforce depends on a high number of economic factors, including labor development for the trucking industry. Several institutions around Arkansas are committed to workforce development and skilled trades education as industrial needs change and advance.
In June, a consortium of four state academic institutions announced their partnership to establish the Arkansas Trucking Academy: the state’s first and only public trucking academy. The school involves two educational systems and four academic campuses:
— Arkansas State Three Rivers in Malvern
— University of Arkansas Cossatot Community College – De Queen campus
— University of Arkansas Rich Mountain in Mena
— University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana
Photo provided by UA Rich Mountain
Providing a Training Solution
Tammy Coleman, the program coordinator at the University of Arkansas Cossatot campus, shared that the “geographic location of the partnering colleges also enables them to more easily and affordably share resources such as tractor-trailer combinations and instructors, resulting in quality affordable training for students.”
Photo provided by UA Cossatot’s Ed88
Arkansas Trucking Academy has two main goals in developing new truck drivers:
— Meet the current demand for more drivers in a shortage environment.
— Provide multiple local options for students to access the program. Proximity to an accredited program keeps many from entering the field.
The academic program is made possible through an Arkansas Regional Workforce grant that helps reduce the cost of student tuition from $3,500 to $1,300. Additional funding came through the Ready for Life educational and jobs funding set aside by Governor Hutchinson, part of the discretionary funding in the coronavirus relief b.
While many other trucking programs and a handful of private academies exist in Arkansas, this consortium offers Arkansas’s first public academy opportunity. The Arkansas Trucking Academy provides quality hands-on training with low, 4-to-1 instructor-to-student ratios at multiple locations in southwest Arkansas to enhance access to training for the lowest possible tuition rate. Financial aid and job placement assistance are also available.
Through 160 hours of combined virtual/simulation instruction, traditional classroom and practical over-the-road instruction, the Arkansas Trucking Academy equips students to sit for their commercial driver’s license exam and be ready to start an exciting new career in a high-paying field with low student debt. Training lasts four to six weeks, depending on study location and academic load capacity. Additionally, the new DRIVE Safe Act that passed in March encourages an additional focus on apprenticeship and enhanced safety training for new drivers, setting a high expectation for safety technology in Arkansas.
Students interested in the program can apply and learn more by visiting, ArkTruckingAcademy.com.
Photo provided by UA Cossatot’s Ed88
Governor Asa Hutchinson was present for the program announcement and is impressed by the workforce solution this brings.
“This is another pace-setting workforce solution that has grown out of conversations between leaders in industry and education. Arkansas’s businesses had a problem, our educators stepped in to fill it, and we can support it with an Arkansas Regional Workforce grant. It’s a model for partnerships between the private sector and the government. Because of that, we soon will be putting more trucks on the road with first-rate drivers at the wheel .”
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