February 16, 2017 3:15 AM, EST
TMC Prepares for 2017 Annual Meeting; Aftertreatment Systems, GHG Top Issues
John Sommers II for TT

This story appears in the Feb. 13 print edition of Transport Topics.

The latest challenges and trends in the maintenance of heavy-duty trucking equipment, such as engine exhaust aftertreatment systems and the impact of greenhouse-gas regulations on fleets, are among the topics to be addressed at the Technology & Maintenance Council’s 2017 annual meeting and transportation technology exhibition set for later this month.

Scheduled for Feb. 27-March 2, the event returns to the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The theme for this year’s meeting is “novel approaches to industry challenges.”

Nearly 400 companies have reserved exhibit space, and total attendance is expected at 4,500, said Carl Kirk, vice president of maintenance, information technology and logistics for American Trucking Associations. TMC is a division of ATA.

A highlight is the TMC “kickoff breakfast” on Feb. 28, with ATA President Chris Spear the featured speaker.

“This is Chris’ first real exposure to the annual meeting and exhibit,” said Kirk, who also is TMC’s executive director. He noted that TMC members are delighted Spear will be on hand to address the group. Spear succeeded Bill Graves as the federation’s president in July.

The educational program for this year’s meeting is robust, Kirk said. A leading topic is engine exhaust aftertreatment systems, which have moved near the top of the list in maintenance cost for fleets, he said.

As a result, TMC has had to issue hundreds of new vehicle maintenance reporting standard (VMRS) codes to identify the components associated with aftertreatment systems, Kirk said. Licensed by TMC, VMRS is a coding system that encompasses trucks, tractors, trailers and other equipment. It is used by OEMs, suppliers and fleets to simplify maintenance via use of alphanumeric, industry-standard codes that help describe maintenance functions, according to TMC.

This kind of detail is important, as some fleets are reporting an additional 8 to 10 cents per mile in running costs due directly to aftertreatment parts, Kirk said. TMC will host a technical session to address the “cause and cure for these systems,” he said.

Another highlight will occur March 1. For a second year, TMC will convene the ATA Executive Leadership Forum. This year, it will feature Troy Clarke, the CEO of truck maker Navistar International Corp., who will speak during the luncheon on future truck technology.

Also as part of this forum, a session will be held on TMC Recommended Practices, which the group develops on all manner of truck maintenance issues, Kirk said.

“All too often, people view our standards as purely technical,” he said. “During this session, we will demonstrate the executive value of the RPs and how adoption of these best practices can contribute to a fleet’s bottom line.”

This forum also will offer sessions on improving cash flow and what omnichannel freight services mean for less-than-truckload, dedicated and truckload carriers, Kirk said.

The TMC meeting also will feature a study group session on diagnosing electronic failures on a truck’s databus.

“The days of a technician using a simple voltmeter to troubleshoot a vehicle are over,” Kirk said. “Modern-day technicians must be proficient in diagnosing wave patterns using an oscilloscope, and management must be alert to how training requirements for their fleets are evolving as well.”

Other sessions included in the four-day meeting will examine breakthroughs in cab design, the effect of greenhouse-gas regulations on fleet operations, en- gine downspeeding, and corrosion as it relates to wiring and connectors.

For the first time, TMC and the Society of Automotive Engineers will co-host a panel that addresses future trucks, Kirk said. Fleet executives will be able to “kick the tires” and look at advanced technologies, he said. Accompanying the showcase will be presentations by advanced engineering executives from OEMs Navistar, Volvo, Cummins-Peterbilt and Daimler.

Also, 120-plus TMC task forces will convene at the meeting, most of which are developing recommended maintenance and engineering standards, Kirk said. “Particularly noteworthy is one RP being balloted to industry on natural-gas vehicle inspection criteria.”

Welcoming a new council chairman for the one-year post also is a highlight of the event. TMC Vice Chairman Glen McDonald of Ozark Motor Lines is in line to succeed Douglas White of Dunbar Armored as TMC’s chairman.

Honors also will be presented. The Silver Spark Plug Award, the council’s highest honor, will be presented Feb. 27 at TMC’s “town meeting.” That session is the conference’s best-attended event, according to the program. The town meeting provides an opportunity for the council to present members and attendees with information about what’s happening within TMC.

The awards luncheon is set for March 1. Honors to be presented include the recognized associates awards, study group secretary award, Peggy Fisher study group leadership award and the excellence in maintenance supervision award.