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April 3, 2017 4:00 AM, EDT

Editorial: How Will Trucks Be Marketed?

This Editorial appears in the April  3 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Big truck shows are always a good way to learn about what’s going on in the world of trucking equipment and technology. You also get to catch up with friends and acquaintances, compare notes about industry trends and, well, gossip.

Accordingly, we were pleased with our annual excursion to the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. This issue is saturated with our coverage of March 23-25 events.

MATS started in 1972 as one of several regional shows taking place nationwide and evolved into North America’s largest annual event for marketing trucks, featuring numerous blowout displays over the years from trucking’s largest suppliers and vendors. There was a bumper crop of technology this year — especially electronic logging devices that will become mandatory in December — but also trailers, transmissions, tractors and engines.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was on site at the Kentucky Exposition Center hosting seminars on the ELD rule and another regulation on entry-level driver training.

There were even touching, noncommercial moments, such as Highway Hero finalists who did some extraordinary things and Trucker Buddies, whose quiet but useful work helps to educate schoolchildren.

Flying home, though, it was impossible not to wonder, what happens next?

MATS is heading for some stiff competition against the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta. September will be the inaugural event for what is planned as a big North American show for odd-numbered years.

The heavy-duty truck makers all have said this idea is the perfect complement for Europe’s grand event in Germany that runs in even-numbered years. OEM executives have told us they don’t want just a “showroom,” but they want people with funds and authority to buy large numbers of trucks in one fell swoop.

Mid-America, of course, is happy to play a part in truck sales, but it also serves owner-operators, company drivers and small fleets as part of its constituency.

The NACV Show might start off with a bolt of lightning that immediately reshapes the marketing of trucks, or not. We note the reticence of the Paccar Inc. brands, Kenworth and Peterbilt. General managers of those two companies said they will observe NACV and consider it for the future, but they’re not jumping in right away.

There could be a major turf battle between the two shows, or maybe NACV will be the executives’ show while MATS will be for drivers.

The market, driven by the tastes of the people (and their wallets), will decide.