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When the trucking industry’s equipment and technology professionals gather in Atlanta this month for the annual meeting of American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council, they’ll probe maintenance issues and discover opportunities for collaboration.
Everything from brakes to electric vehicle standardization to onboard technologies will be discussed at the meeting Feb. 24-27 at the Georgia World Congress Center.
“If you’re all about technical stuff, we’re the place to be,” TMC Executive Director Robert Braswell said of the conference.
The theme is “Advancing Careers in Maintenance Management” as the event aims to help develop best practices that address critical technology and maintenance issues.
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Nearly 5,000 representatives, including manufacturers, suppliers, academics, government officials and service providers are expected to attend, including Eaton Corp., Dana Inc., Wabco Holdings Inc., CIE Manufacturing and Mack Trucks.
The annual meeting also will host an exhibition for the display of current equipment, maintenance and technology approaches. The exhibit floor opens with some 350 exhibitors the evening of Feb. 24, following the day’s task force and orientation sessions and other events.
Braswell said the task forces are transient groups meant to solve problems and then dissolve within a period of about two years, while study groups are permanent committees that explore problems.
For example, the Electrical study group will discuss battery technology and the Engine study group will discuss diesel fuel challenges. Other study group sessions will focus on wheels, in-cab vehicle technologies and trailer repairs.
“In terms of fleet-driven, member-driven [and] best practices-driven organizations, that’s what we do,” Braswell said.
Just as the industry faces a shortage of truck drivers it has a dearth of technicians.
A 2019 competitor performs a skills test on the undercarriage of a truck. (Jeremy Kirkpatrick/American Trucking Associations)
The total demand for new diesel technicians is expected to reach 25,655 people in 2021, according to research published by TMC and TechForce Foundation, a nonprofit organization encouraging careers for professional technicians.
There will be a special track with three sessions dedicated to management and career development. They cover: causes of waste within fleet maintenance, time management for supervisors and communication skills.
Kenneth Calhoun, fleet optimization manager for Altec Service Group and general chairman and treasurer of TMC, said the career development sessions planned for Feb. 27 may foster careers for those entering the industry while helping more experienced attendees with “building their bench.”
“I would encourage those members that are coming to look around and say ‘Where are those individuals in my organization that have shown that spark and that initiative and how do I get them here to take advantage of professional development opportunities?’ ” Calhoun said.
The council has a Leaders of Tomorrow program for up-and-coming fleet maintenance professionals in their early 40s or younger, or have a minimum of five years’ experience in the trucking industry.
Don't miss this year's Fleet Talk, one of the most popular TMC general meeting sessions. If you've ever attending a Fleet Talk, let us know what you think about it! #TMCAnnual2020 https://t.co/YneUGMeO8D pic.twitter.com/p9QGdo933V— Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) of ATA (@TMC4Trucks) February 11, 2020
Braswell had high expectations for the two main technical sessions.
One, scheduled Feb. 25, focuses on how to maximize uptime and includes perspectives from fleets and service dealers. Uptime means keeping trucks functioning rather than out of commission in the shop or on the side of the road.
Although most fleets perform their own maintenance they sometimes have to turn to a third party, such as during a roadside breakdown, Braswell said.
“The conversation between the fleet customer and the service dealer can be somewhat contentious,” he said. “This is a continuation of that conversation. We will have folks from both sides of the aisle, so to speak, share their insights on best practices.”
The second technical session Feb. 26, “The Combination Vehicle as a Connected Whole,” will cover issues about automated and connected vehicle technology in trucking.
A special exhibit feature will be the Advanced Technology Pavilion. Technologies for this area include: cybersecurity, automated driving and platooning, drone applications, alternative fuels, telematics and advanced fuel economy solutions.
“TMC’s 2020 exhibit will provide one-stop shopping for the busy fleet executive who wants to quickly get up to speed on all segments of emerging and advanced technology in these areas,” according to the council.
In part two of a two-part exploration of autonomous technology today, our latest RoadSigns podcast revisits conversations with Chuck Price of TuSimple and Ognen Stojanovski of Pronto.ai. Hear them discuss a palatable Level 2 version of trucking autonomy. Listen to a snippet above, and to hear the full episode, go to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
Further, the Be Pro Be Proud initiative will be represented on the show floor. Be Pro Be Proud introduces students to the possibilities of skilled jobs through virtual- and augmented-reality technology. The program uses a trailer with interactive exhibits, including working as a diesel technician and on utility poles, along with simulations for a locomotive and an excavator.
“That’s very rewarding when you can share a vision like that and it actually produces something tangible,” Calhoun said.
The simulators incorporate game-like elements, which Calhoun said can help engage young people.
“As I look at the ability to produce something like that, where we can begin to engage young people while they’re still in middle and high school to think about the opportunities that are out there,” he said, “that will be around hopefully long after I’m gone; that’s a big deal.”
TMC will install Stacy Earnhardt, director of asset management and specialized operations at Best Logistics Group, as the new chairman of the council during its banquet Feb. 26. Best Logistics Group is based in Kernersville, N.C.
Calhoun said his term as chairman was impactful in part because he was able to broaden the network of people to discuss ideas and solutions.
“I can’t imagine anybody having this job and it not being the highlight of their career,” Calhoun said. “It’s humbling.”
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