Today's Paper State News LEARNS Guide Newsletters Opinion Sports Obits Games Archive Notices Core Values

OPINION | ANDREW MOREAU: Pandemic reshaped family’s nascent trucking firm into driving school

April 2, 2023 at 2:41 a.m.

Economic conditions during the pandemic opened a business opportunity for the Godley family of Little Rock -- though not the concept they originally had in mind. They were flexible enough to recognize a market need and shift their plans to meet it.

The mother-father-son team was moving forward with plans to open their own transportation business and had purchased a few 18-wheelers in the early days of the pandemic. They learned through news reports about supply-chain disorder knotting global goods and equipment delivery along with the shortage of drivers for the trucking industry.

"That's when we pivoted from a truck-driving company into the education field," said Gladys Godley, chief executive officer of the company.

Gladys and her husband, Gary Sr., along with their son Gary Jr., bring career skills that complement each other and create a robust environment at WorldLink Truck Driving Academy of North Little Rock. Gladys has more than two decades as a career-education teacher; Gary Sr., the chief financial officer, is a military veteran who drove refueling tankers and has an entrepreneurial background; Gary Jr., operations manager, is a former Little Rock firefighter who "drove everything they had," including tiller trucks that sit on the same frame used by 18-wheelers.

The academy, located near the Prothro Junction and Interstate-40 intersection, offers classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel driving lessons that prepare drivers to enter the workforce. WorldLink has solid relationships in the industry with independent transportation companies such as J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell and major corporations such as The Coca-Cola Co.

WorldLink, celebrating its second anniversary this month, is the first minority-owned truck-driving school in the state. Its training academy is a certified apprenticeship program approved through the U.S. Department of Labor. The company also trains drivers for ABF Freight System and P.A.M. Transport Inc.

"We started with one student and one truck," Gladys said. "There were so many people who wanted to change careers that this became a good option for us. The need was there for drivers. We were meeting the need to help the economy."

Over the past two years, the company has trained nearly 300 drivers to fill a critical industry shortage of professional drivers. "During the pandemic, when we were thinking about starting a trucking company, we learned about the need for drivers," Gary Jr. says. "So we just thought we would train our own drivers and that transformed into a full school."

Like most start-ups, the early days were a bootstrap operation that enlisted other relatives to pitch in. "We're a family-run operation and everybody worked for free until we could get revenue coming in," Gary Sr. said.

WorldLink soon was boosted by pandemic-driven economic conditions, with more workers having time to consider career changes and looking for jobs with better pay. "The salary options were good and there was a very high demand for truck drivers when we first started," Gladys says.

Drivers remain in high demand and shortages have increased salaries across the sector, with the industry projecting pay will continue to rise.

Today's trucking industry is responsible for about 84% of the entire revenue of the transportation industry, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). As the economy continues to strengthen, trucking companies are facing even more pressure to hire and retain drivers to meet the growing demand from shippers.

Recruiting drivers has been a long-standing issue for the industry and that pressure has intensified as the economy has heated.

More than 90% of truckload fleets raised pay in 2021, with the average increase hitting 10.9%, according to industry data. Wages jumped again last year and an ATA survey projected 60% of independent trucking operators planned to continue increasing pay.

From 2018-2022, the average truck driver's earnings skyrocketed 65% and the average salary in 2022 was $71,000 annually.

A year ago, Walmart announced its drivers could make up to $110,000 in their first year.

WorldLink works with graduates to outline their career goals to place them with the right carrier, Gary Jr. says. "We do our best to understand their needs and goals," he added.

Graduates have included couples as driving teams and students with various backgrounds who enter the academy looking for new career options.

"We have trained a rainbow of people from across Arkansas," Gladys said.


Fourteen college start-up teams have been selected to compete for $114,000 in cash prizes Friday in the 2023 Governor's Cup Competition.

The teams, representing six Arkansas colleges and universities, will pitch their ideas in a luncheon at the Fayetteville Public Library Event Center and audience members will vote for the best pitch in three divisions.

Team participants represent Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia; Central Baptist College in Conway; Lyon College in Batesville; the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville; Harding University in Searcy; and the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Divisions include small business and graduate and undergraduate levels in high-growth technology.

Dhu Thompson of Little Rock is the title sponsor of the 23rd annual competition.

The $114,000 cash prize pool includes $20,000 to the winners of both the graduate and undergraduate tracks of the high-growth technology division. Second place winners will each receive $10,000; and $7,500 will be awarded to both third-place winners.

A cash prize of $10,000 will be awarded to the winner of the small-business division, with the second- and third-place teams receiving $7,500 and $5,000, respectively.

Pitch-competition winners in each division will receive $1,000.

Arkansas Capital Corp. began the competition in 2021 to promote student entrepreneurship.

"Everything we do here at Arkansas Capital is geared toward empowering entrepreneurs and strengthening communities," said Sam Walls, chief executive officer. "We wanted to provide our state's colleges and universities with a highly incentivized opportunity to teach their students to think entrepreneurially and encourage them to look at entrepreneurship as a career path."

Before narrowing the field to 14 teams, 23 teams from nine Arkansas universities entered the competition.

Column ideas or recommendations? Thoughts or musings that need pursuing? Contact me at or at (501) 378-3567.

CORRECTION: Gladys Godley is the chief executive officer of WorldLink Truck Driving Academy of North Little Rock. An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the company.

Print Headline: Pandemic reshaped family’s nascent trucking firm into driving school


Sponsor Content