The Technology & Maintenance Council of ATA opened its annual meeting and exposition in Nashville yesterday evening by announcing healthy attendance and describing goals set by a Strategic Planning Committee. Officers also named seven recipients of the Silver Spark Plug award for service to the organization.

Attendance at TMC’s main yearly event totaled 3,281, reported Kirk Altrichter, chairman of the meeting planning committee. This is not a record but continues the growth that’s developed since the end of the Great Recession.

Attendees included 519 full members, who are fleet managers; 1,072 associate members, who work for truck and component suppliers; 100 service providers, such as dealers; 15 educators; 342 exhibitors; 1,178 exhibitor representatives who crew the expo’s booths; and 45 spouses.

More than 200 suppliers have set up booths covering more than 200,000 square feet of space in the exposition hall, said Joe Hite, TMC’s director of meetings, exhibits and sponsorships. This, too, reflects a revival as the trucking industry and the general economy continue their steady recovery in the last several years.

The Transportation Technology Exhibition at TMC’s annual meeting has been recognized by Expo Magazine as one of the fastest growing events in the United States, said Lee Long, TMC’s general chairman and treasurer. He finishes his year-long tenure during this meeting.

“When I first began attending the TMC exhibit, it was basically trucks, engines, transmissions, drivelines and heavy iron,” said Long, of Southeastern Freight Lines. “But let’s face it. Trucking is not what it used to be, and neither is our exhibit. The truck is no longer a simple piece of rolling stock. It is now viewed as an information processing center – just one node of a very complex logistical supply chain.”

Telematics and highly capable hardware and software aid fleet managers, their companies and their shipper-customers in freight scheduling, tracking and invoicing over the internet, he said.

The Strategic Planning Committee was formed more than a year ago and has developed goals to be met over the next five years, Long said. The committee, headed by Bob Flesher, a former general chairman and retired maintenance executive at FedEx Ground, wants to boost TMC membership by 5% per year through 2017.

TMC members are individuals, some of whom work for companies that belong to the American Trucking Associations, TMC’s parent. Although ATA includes about 1,300 trucking companies, only 136, or 10% of them, have maintenance managers who are in TMC. The planning committee believes that should rise to 50% of ATA companies by 2017.

Planning committee members, led by Peggy Fisher, another former general chairman, have drawn up a marketing plan and will hire a marketing firm to assist with recruiting efforts, Long said. Activities aimed at signing up and retaining members, and recovering former members who have drifted away, are among the committee’s intended activities.

The committee’s detailed plans include TMC’s traditional activities – organizing educational sessions at meetings for manager-members, improving the image of technicians and assisting in recruiting of young people to enter that profession, the writing of recommended practices for maintenance and specifying of new equipment, and continued development of Future Truck papers that sketch a vision for trucks and trailers in coming years.

In addition to Flesher, Altrichter and Fisher, committee members have held various TMC leadership roles and represents fleet and supplier affiliations. They are Oren Summer, Dan Umphress, Al Anderson, Tom Cuthbertson, Dave Foster, Roy Gambrell, Mike Jeffress and John Sullivan. Trade press writers are represented by Tom Berg of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.

Altrichter, who delivered the attendance report, was the first Silver Spark Plug award recipient named by Long during the Monday evening Town Hall Meeting. Altrichter, who is maintenance vice president at Gordon Trucking and TMC’s incoming general chairman, has been active in TMC presentations on computer-based automated data entry and ATA’s Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards. Other recipients:

  • Tony Tierney, of Borg-Warner, who headed study groups on trailers and materials handling equipment and wide-base single tires, among other topics;
  • Bonne Karim, retired from the U.S. Postal Service, who has been closely associated with TMC’s Professional Technician Development Committee;
  • Ken Kelley, of Webb Wheel, who chaired study groups on tires and wheels, chassis and brake systems, and headed task forces on wheel fasteners and wheel-end components;
  • Ken Calhoun, from Truck Centers of Arkansas, who headed a task force on counterfeit parts, now chairs one on relationships between fleets and dealers and independent shops, which TMC calls service providers, and has appeared on a weekly broadcast, “Tech Talk with TMC,” on SiriusXM satellite radio; and
  • Ken DeGrant, of DG Technologies, who has led establishment of a a sector on information technology and logistics, supports the National Technician Skills Competition, and is active in numerous other technical activities.

TMC’s annual meeting includes a series of technical and management-oriented sessions and runs through this Thursday.