Arkansas State University - Newport

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June 2019

ASUN History…still on the road

It’s obvious, the way we shop has changed. We no longer wait weeks for packages to arrive or for a store to get a new shipment. For the most part, we can get what we want when we want it. There is an industry that supports this consumer evolution—trucking. Truck drivers literally keep our economy moving. With growth and change comes a need for a workforce, and ASU-Newport’s Commercial Driver Training program has worked for more than three decades to provide it.

Dale Martin remembers when the truck driving program started. ASU-Newport was White River Vocational Technical School. Martin began as a truck driving instructor in 1987 after working in the truck driving industry along with corporate safety management. After 24 years, he retired, but he didn’t stay away for long. He quickly returned as a part-time instructor for the program where he currently teaches future drivers.

ASUN truck.

Martin said he’s seen the program change a lot over the years. The first group of students was selected through a government program. Then the program split between Searcy and Newport to provide training in both communities. The truck driving program stayed strong as ASU-Newport and ASU-Beebe merged to become ASU Beebe/Newport and of course since 2001 has been a thriving program under the leadership of ASU-Newport. Martin recalls all the different classrooms the program utilized before being placed on a large range where students can practice on the road training before mingling on real highways with other drivers.

Old ASUN trucks.

No matter the name on the building, Martin said students were always coming in, and there was always a need for more and more skilled truck drivers. The need began to encourage companies to seek partnerships with training locations. Martin helped facilitate a partnership with JB Hunt to provide them with drivers. According to Martin, more than 500 drivers came out of the program to work for JB Hunt. Partnerships are still a staple for ASUN’s Commercial Driver Training program.

In 2005, a partnership with Maverick began that continues to provide a steady number of truck driving students with 11 rotations throughout the year and an additional rotation for ASUN’s High Voltage Lineman students.

More or less, Martin said he predicts he’s taught more than 25,000 students. “I meet people everywhere,” Martin said. “I’ve been in Chicago or Little Rock and someone comes up to me and asks if I remember them. They immediately tell me they completed the truck driving program.”

The program is 4 weeks long, but Martin says even with the quick turnaround they still can’t produce enough drivers for the needs of the workforce. “We have more of a driver’s shortage now than we used to have,” Martin said. “It’s the second fastest growing job market in the country.”

ASUN trucks.

Martin believes that is because trucking is still the most consistent and cost-effective form of delivery. While providing job security and high wages, life on the road isn’t for everyone. Martin said drivers can be gone for weeks at a time living out of their trucks. He said the trucks may be “nicer” now, but it doesn’t change the demands of the job.

He believes the industry will continue to change over the next 4-5 years with upgrades in truck automation and technology. But what will not change is the need for highly skilled safe drivers to operate the trucks on our roads. ASU-Newport continues to invest in this program as industry leaders and partners tell us the need is great. Our goal is to provide skilled drivers so the economy can continue to move and grow, allowing consumers to get what they need when they need it.  

Learn more about how to apply for the Commercial Driver Training program here.

This look back is brought to you by Mallory Jordan, ASUN’s Marketing and Communications Specialist.