The Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., last week was in some ways a very different-looking event, because all the heavy-duty truck makers decided to skip exhibiting this year, preferring an every-other-year approach opposite the big international IAA show in Germany, which will be held this fall.
What did exhibitors and attendees think of Mid-America wihout the truck OEs? We asked a number of them what they thought and how this year’s show was going for them:
Dave De Poincy, East Manufacturing: “The show is good. There’s not as much traffic [in the South Wing, where truck makers have been in past years], but people are looking at the equipment and asking questions instead of just kicking tires. We’ve exhibited here since ’74, and we were the first trailer OE to come here. The nature of the show has changed since owner-operators became extinct. Now it’s more branding than making sales.”
Jon Morrison, Wabco North America: “When you’re here you really appreciate the truck driver. These are good, hard-working people who love trucking. MATS is still a good platform for lively conversation with people. So it’s still a good show.”
Scott Richmond, Premo Plus Lubrication: “There’s less traffic, but the people here stop to talk to us. They’re not distracted by the big trucks.”
Kevin Longchamp, J&J Truck Bodies and Trailers: "We expanded our booth size with the OEMs not being here. This year, none of the dealer principals were here during the VIP hours [on Thursday]. But the people here [on Friday] are good industry representatives, owner-operators who run these trucks. Some guys came through who were disgusted that the truck OEMs weren’t here. Three guys came down from Nova Scotia and didn’t know about it. I’ve asked people what they think [about that] and got a mixed bag. Some said it’s good – they can spend more time with suppliers. It was a difficult decision for us to come here. [But] I think it was a good decision."
Troy Geisler, Talbert Manufacturing: “MATS continues to be a wonderful platform for us to meet with our dealers and customers. We displayed two popular trailer models: the 4050TA and the 65SA. The 4050TA continues to draw attention due to its industry-leading low deck height, and the 65SA generated a lot of conversation about the versatility of our custom trailers.... We’re excited for the relationships that we developed during the show and look forward to providing them with innovative hauling solutions.”
Scott Kleman, Godwin Group: "We were in the North Hall where the aisles are narrower, so it seems like it was busier [in previous years]. Here [in the South Hall], our booth is much bigger, so it seems like it’s not so busy, but actually the traffic is good."
Mathieu Gallant, Trout River Trailers (Prince Edward Island, Canada): “It’s good. This is our first time here. We’re here due to customer demand. They wanted us to come here, and the customers we talk to every day on the phone are here.”
Doug Johnson, Drivewyze (in the West Wing): "The reason we're here is we have customers here, and we're meeting a lot of them -- the drivers and owner-operators were our first customers, and their families. This is a great family event."
Ray Albright, A&A Trucking, Obion, Tenn. (attending with son Richard Albright): “We look at tools, parts, aftermarket stuff. They’re sometimes better than original stuff – motor mounts, carrier bearings, that kind of thing. We don’t often buy anything, but if you need it, you know what it is and where to get it.”
Lonnie Eckardt, Vecima Networks (FleetLynx ELD product): "It's my first time here so I have nothing to compare it to, but the traffic here in the West Wing has been really strong. I heard a few drivers say they were disappointed that none of the truck makers came this year. I have an ELD product in the booth and I was a little surprised at how much resentment to these products there appears to be among drivers."
Jim Clark, Hadley: "We were in the South Hall, but we moved across the hall from where we were last year. It was pretty quiet over here. I guess a hall full of trailers wasn't enough to keep the drivers' attention. I get the impression many drivers came in, looked around and then went elsewhere."
Don Bretthauer, American Truck Historical Society: "It was great for us. We had the whole south end of the South [Hall], right next to the food court. There were lots of people walking around the exhibits and we have more room this year than ever before."
Matt Boland, Coleman Oil, Lewiston, Idaho: "I had heard rumors the truck makers were going to boycott Mid-America this year. What's that all about? We don't get much of an opportunity to talk with those guys all in one place. I was disappointed, but the rest of the show was still worth the trip."
Clint Stiltner, owner-operator from Shelby, Ohio: “I like the show. It lets you know what’s offered. When I bought my W900, I saw it here. Now this year, do they [the truck OEs] not realize that being here let’s you see what’s available from them? It’s only going to hurt ‘em.”
Editor in Chief Deborah Lockridge and Equipment Editor Jim Park contributed to this story.