Mid-America Trucking Show Features Return of 3 Heavy-Duty Truck Makers

John Sommers II for TT

This story appears in the March 20 print edition of Transport Topics.

The Mid-America Trucking Show is set to kick off this week, giving attendees a closeup look at the latest developments in truck equipment and technology and opportunities to learn more about industry issues.

Three heavy-duty truck manufacturers will return to the annual trucking show, scheduled for March 23-25, a year after all of the major North American truck makers skipped the event in 2016.

Kenworth Truck Co. and Peterbilt Motors Co., both units of Paccar Inc., as well as Mack Trucks, which is part of Volvo Group, plan to showcase their latest designs and technological innovations at MATS, held each year at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. The companies will host press conferences beginning on the convention’s media day, March 22.

MATS, which is marking its 46th show this year, now faces competition from the North American Commercial Vehicle Show, a biennial event scheduled to debut Sept. 25 in Atlanta. Daimler Trucks North America, Volvo Trucks North America, Mack and Navistar International Corp. plan to headline the rival trucking convention.

Aside from the truck manufacturer displays, MATS will feature three days of press conferences, investor meetings, discussion sessions, small concerts, luncheons and receptions. The convention is expected to draw about 70,000 attendees and more than 1,000 exhibitors.

“We are seeing significantly increased participation within the technology category of exhibitors, including telematics, ELD solutions, electronic load board and other hot industry topics,” said Toby Young, president of Exhibit Management Associates, which owns and operates the show.

“MATS is the one event that delivers a cross-section of the entire industry, making it an efficient platform for all levels of trucking industry professionals to research the latest products and services, engage with product experts and engineers, stay connected to the industry and keep up-to-date with important equipment, regulatory and technological changes,” Young told Transport Topics.

Officials with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are scheduled to host seminars on the minimum training requirements for entry-level drivers and the implementation plan for electronic logging devices. The ELD mandate takes effect at the end of this year. An agency spokesman told TT that FMCSA will offer an update on its Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety performance scoring program, which is under review.

Meanwhile, Truckstop.com will host a trio of workshops starting March 23 and aimed at assisting freight brokers and carriers with planning. The workshops will focus on decision-making to secure profitable loads, establishing connections in the freight marketplace and evaluating a cost-per-mile system.

Several exhibitors plan to launch products during the show. The producers behind the online community TruckThat.com, for instance, will introduce its ONE20 smartphone app, which aims to establish a standard for rating and ranking businesses targeting truckers.

Suppliers also will showcase aerodynamic devices and other products designed to help the trucking industry meet tighter U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions standards set to take effect in January 2018.

Wabco Vehicle Control Systems, for example, intends to showcase its OptiFlow AutoTail, the first aerodynamic tail in the United States featuring automatic deployment and retraction.

“We are proud to introduce a broad array of innovative aerodynamic solutions in North America that will improve efficiency of commercial vehicles for fleet operators and transport companies alike,” said Jon Morrison, president of Wabco’s Americas business unit.

On March 23, the U.S. Department of Labor will lead a press conference about a jobs program, Bestpass will announce enhanced services and Thermo King will field questions from reporters.

On March 24, the Trucking Moves America Forward national image campaign will host a press conference to recognize industry leaders’ efforts in promoting the essential role of trucking nationwide. The campaign was established to advance a positive image across the trucking industry through outreach and public service.

“Truckers are a proud group, and we have an important story to tell,” American Trucking Associations Chairman Kevin Burch said earlier this year.

Updates by Trucker Buddy International and HaulHound will follow the safety campaign’s press conference. The two firms offer smartphone apps.

Also on March 24, musical performers Tony Justice and Thompson Square will headline the MATS concert.

During the convention, the American Transportation Research Institute plans to survey commercial drivers on a variety of topics, such as parking concerns, hours of service and safety. The research organization, which is part of ATA, recently unveiled a report that detailed potential benefits of providing truckers with real-time notifications of available parking. The firm also is preparing to unveil an update of its freight congestion report.

MATS will culminate with the Paul K. Young Truck Beauty championship.