businessman moves to top of trucking industry
founder of Maverick Transportation, lives in Beebe and Colorado
By Rainer Sabin
===Trucking has defined Steve
Williams' life. In Columbia, Mo., he grew up in a family that made a
living off hauling materials across county roads and highways.
=== By the time he was 29, he founded a
company in central Arkansas that has become one of the biggest in an
industry based on transportation and logistics.
=== Now Williams, 51, who heads Maverick
Transportation company in North Little Rock and has homes in Beebe and
Colorado, is one of the foremost advocates of the nationwide trucking
community. Last October, he was named chairman of the American Trucking
Association, an organization that represents the interests of the industry.
He is the first Arkansas resident to be elected to the top position
of the ATA since its founding in 1933.
=== Terms for ATA chairmen last one year.
Williams has been described by his peers as progressive. He stands out
in a community that is for the most part conservative.
=== In the past, he has supported Democrats,
such as former president Bill Clinton and Massachu-setts Democrat John
Kerry, who lost a bid for the White House. Williams also has thrown
his weight behind efforts to reduce air pollution and develop more environmentally
safe truck engines.
=== "He understands and advocates change,"
said Robert Young, chief executive officer of Arkansas Best, a Fort
Smith-based trucking firm. "He is not afraid to take unpopular positions
and swing them around. He is effective at that. "I may not like everything
he does, but he will do what he thinks is best for the trucking industry,"
=== For Williams, that means incorporating
the knowledge he gathered working in Arkansas to help him achieve an
ambitious agenda. Williams started his company with one truck and quickly
built up the business. By 2003, it generated revenues of $130 million
and currently employs 1,189 people.
=== But Williams hasn't had much time to
come back to Arkansas to oversee his company since he assumed his new
role with the ATA. Williams will be traveling around the country promoting
trucking nationwide and addressing issues that affect the industry,
including federal legislation in the Senate that would give states the
authority to toll interstates and make other changes to the federal
highway system. Williams said he was steadfastly against the bill.
=== "It violates the trust in how we are
going to fund highways in the country," he said in a telephone interview
from his home in Colorado. While Williams said he would prefer states
issue a fuel tax like the one that was used to fund the program that
fixed some of Arkansas' most trafficked highways, he does not necessarily
agree with Huckabee's plan to focus on repairing secondary roads.
=== "In Arkansas, we have many pressing
issues and priorities," he said. "It's important that we concentrate
resources on lanes of greater use and of strategic importance to moving
=== Gov. Mike Huckabee has said he wants
his $1 billion highway package to be approved by the state Legislature
this session and plans to raise fuel taxes and increase driver-related
fees to finance the $90 million to $100 million needed to get bonds
for the new construction.
=== "Getting things to the interstate is
now the critical issue," Huckabee said. "It's great to have the interstates.
But if you're not on one and you are in Crossett or El Dorado, you want
to have a route to get your products to that interstate and from that
=== Williams, who was president of the
Arkansas Trucking Association three times, said his focus nationally
is on tort reform for liability lawsuits against truckers and a bigger
infrastructure for ground transportation of goods.
=== He has eight months to get what he
wants accomplished in an industry that is not used to people who like
to stir it up.