The spring meeting of the Technology and Maintenance Council is a well-supported event. It features a trade show that's always worth your time when attending this ATA council's main meeting.There are long-term exhibitors with familiar equipment, but that doesn't make it boring, because TMC's meetings are very much a social event – associates way outnumber delegates and first-time attendees are welcomed into the fold. But it's all the technical content and the new stuff that makes this such an exciting event.
Make no mistake: TMC is a lot of work, what with three and a half days of interactive meetings, working meals and technical presentations. Then there's about 11 hours of exhibit time – giving you just enough time to get around and view the new and improved products and services.
First to catch my eye was the Benecor booth with a 'fuel pump' bearing the Terra Cair branding. Turns out that this is the first go-around with urea distribution that may well be a part of every truckers life after 2010. Volvo and Mack have come out firmly on the side of selective catalytic reduction and Detroit Diesel is sure to follow. In fact, Mercedes-Benz diesel cars with Bluetech technology will also use SCR in the 2009 model year. So it's a fair bet you'll be able to find these pumps at truckstops by 2010. Benecor is the distributor and installer of pumps and storage systems and will also be talking to fleets about installing the urea dispensing infrastructure at terminals at something like $30,000 a pop.
Next big surprise was a large booth for Double Coin, a Chinese tire manufacturer that has recently gained data-book position at International for medium and heavy tires. Double Coin is obviously committed to the North American market and is establishing service and distribution to support International. It makes sense, but it was interesting to see this supplier setting up at the prestigious TMC show that has always been the domain of the big three, Michelin, Goodyear and Bridgestone/Firestone.
And talking of Bridgestone, it was with some surprise I noted that the ultra-low profile Bridgestone Greatec singles rather than Michelin X-Ones were spec'ed on the Great Dane technology trailer, decked out in Wal-Mart colors.
This trailer is Great Dane's contribution to the retailer's stated aim of halving its distribution costs. That is generally thought to mean doubling its truck fuel economy – and that is a big part of it – but there are many other avenues Wal-Mart will explore to drive down costs as well. However, the fuel efficiency improvement is major and the trailer is interesting for the approach to fuel savings.
Most obvious is the "boat tail" at the rear, where a taper to the roof and sides over the last foot or so reduces the rear area to about the size of the roll-up door. It does not impact the practicality of the trailer but reduces the drag from the low-pressure buildup at the rear. Also included are side fairings that deploy above 35 mph. At the show these were in their deployed position, making the trailer look futuristic.
And futuristic is the program being launched by Hivis. This is a private/government partnership that wants to pull location and speed information from fleet vehicles equipped with suitable telematics technology, i.e., fleet trucks with location and messaging. The information from many tens of thousands of vehicles on the nation's highways is made autonomous and is aggregated in to a huge database to reveal where – in real time – there is congestion tying up traffic. Participants get the information, delivered to dispatch direct or over the web to aid in alerting drivers of traffic situations to avoid. According to the principals at the TMC booth, the information could be refined down to truck level and actually sent to the driver.
It's a very ambitious project, but one likely to succeed, because it will provide much better data than existing traffic polls for the government spending of highway funds. It seems to me to be a very worthwhile long-range effort wherein fleets can help, and profit by at the same time.
Too many innovations, too little space here. Your best bet is to join TMC, if you're already not a member. Participate in the meetings, get on the leading edge of technology. And enjoy the genuine friendship you'll find there.