In his last speech as chairman of the American Truck Dealers, Utah commercial truck dealer Kyle Treadway urged dealers to embrace the many changes affecting heavy- and medium-duty truck retailing, including the introduction of new federal regulations, technological advances and the entrance of a younger generation of future dealers.

Treadway, president of Kenworth Sales Company in Salt Lake City, has served as chairman of ATD since 2009. Ford dealer Richard Witcher, president of Minuteman Trucks Inc., in Walpole, Mass., begns a two-year term as ATD chairman this week during ATD's 49th annual Convention & Expo, which is being held in conjunction with the NADA convention in Las Vegas.

"Modern technology is more powerful than we all realized," Treadway said during the convention's opening general session on Saturday. "And change will come with or without our cooperation."

With the Federal Highway Administration predicting freight volumes that could double by 2035 and the government wielding greater control over distribution, Treadway said dealers must be ready to adjust their business model to better support their customers, who are increasingly bearing the weight of questionable regulations, such as new hours of service, the new CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) enforcement program, and upcoming fuel economy rules.

In addition, he said, "Freight distribution is experiencing a sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic, change in its business model. Global Director for Commercial Vehicle Research Sandeep Kar of Consulting Firm Frost & Sullivan suggests that the rise of global mega-cities, against the backdrop of increasing government control of freight movement will lead to fundamental changes in equipment configuration, highway design and commodity distribution.

"This suggests we need to understand the long-range ramifications of these dynamics and comprehend how to adapt," he said. "What customer service extras will become 'must haves'? How will we price our products and transact our services?"

Another challenge facing today's commercial truck dealers is preparing dealers of the future for successful careers in the trucking industry. Treadway urged dealers to "beef up" their management training programs in an effort to attract future leaders now in their 20s and 30s.

Under Treadway's leadership, ATD launched a "NextGen" program at its 2011 convention aimed at preparing the dealers of tomorrow by connecting them to other dealers with similar backgrounds and giving them the tools to share ideas and improve their business operations. Since then, the group has grown to include representatives from suppliers and OEMs as well as future dealers. Katie Hopkins of Truck Centers Inc. in Troy, Ill., is the group's chairwoman.

"Putting together the resources of ATD and NADA, with these future dealers and managers is an intriguing process and it's been a wonder to behold," Treadway said. "I can't wait to see what they create."