The Arkansas Trucking Association celebrated its 85th anniversary at its annual business conference and vendor showcase at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers May 3-4. After the event’s educational forums, over 300 industry executives were invited to hear the stories of individuals who had lived and worked in trucking throughout the past 85 years. Storytellers included two Cleburne County natives, Nelda Kennedy, former trucking association board member, and featured speaker Johnelle Hunt, cofounder of J.B. Hunt Transport.
Hunt shared her experiences in the trucking industry. In 1962, the J. B. Hunt Company, a rice hull packaging company, opened its doors in Stuttgart, Ark. Hunt worked part-time to help her husband, Johnnie B., get started in the business. As the company grew, she found herself working full time. In 1969 the couple co-founded J.B. Hunt Transport with five trucks and seven trailers. Its success as one of the largest transportation logistics providers is a tribute to the Hunt’s entrepreneurial spirit and hard work.
“Trucking has such a long and rich history in the state of Arkansas because of entrepreneurs like Johnelle—men and women with incredible work ethic and business sense moving the economy
forward,” said Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association. “For our 85th anniversary, we want to celebrate the stories and contributions of the legends in our industry, who committed to making trucking prosperous across the state of Arkansas,” she continued.
During the conference’s final forum, “ATA: 85 Years & Counting,” Newton paid tribute to the association’s humble beginnings and the individuals who have contributed throughout history to position the association to take on the challenging regulatory environment of 2017.
Before Hunt took the stage to recount the successes and hardships of building a trucking business in Arkansas, the association premiered the oral histories of five other men and women with ties to the industry. Storytellers included O.C. Reed, a retired truck driver from Staves, Ark.; Vicki Stephens, current Arkansas Trucking Association board member and CEO of C.C. Jones Trucking in North Little Rock, Ark.; Butch Rice, immediate past chair of the ATA’s board of directors and CEO of Stallion Transportation Group in Beebe, Ark.; Guy Campbell, former board member and president of Arkansas Trailer, Inc. in Little Rock, Ark.; and Cleburne County native Nelda Kennedy, former owner of Plant Truck Line and first female board member of the trucking association.
Former board members Kennedy and Campbell were in attendance at the association’s 85th milestone event to see their stories shared with the association’s current members and celebrate the conference’s closing festivities.
Kennedy, still a cheerleader of the industry, said during her oral history interview, “Well, if you've got it and you wear it or you eat it, a truck brought it. Without trucks, we would be nothing.”
The annual conference also featured knowledgeable speakers on topics that are top of mind for trucking executives today – regulation, the economy, technology and trade. Newton said, “The greatest benefit of this meeting is the same thing it has been for 85 years: the people—gathering; sharing notes; catching up; discussing their companies, their issues, their successes and failures; and participating in the camaraderie that remains a big part of the trucking industry in Arkansas.”