February 15, 2016 3:15 AM, EST

TMC Prepares for Annual Meeting

John Sommers II for TT
This story appears in the Feb. 15 print edition of Transport Topics.

The latest trends in maintaining heavy-duty vehicles and best practices for overcoming the growing shortage of diesel technicians will be key topics during the Technology & Maintenance Council’s annual meeting later this month.

Scheduled for Feb. 29-March 3 at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, the meeting will include a town hall-style forum for fleet operators to discuss some of their challenges and glean from other experts ways to tackle them. It also will spotlight the winner of its top award.

The council, a division of American Trucking Associations, also marks its 60th anniversary during the event.

“It’s important for us to mark this milestone in the council’s history,” said Carl Kirk, executive director of the Technology & Maintenance Council. “Much of what the industry knows in the way of best practices, and reliable and safe equipment, can be traced to the efforts of specialists on the original equipment and aftermarket side and equipment maintenance professionals working together in partnership at TMC.”

Other highlights include choosing a new council chairman for the annual post as Kevin Tomlinson’s term wraps up and a separate forum just for ATA executives.

The inaugural ATA Executive Leadership Forum, also on Feb. 29, includes eight sessions. It is “a one-day business meeting designed to help you get up to speed on the important technology and supply chain issues of the day,” said ATA Chairman Pat Thomas.

The sessions will provide trucking fleets greater insight on improving relations with shippers, dealers and logistics providers. In addition, panel discussions will focus on truck financing, disaster recovery, the latest in-cab technologies and the latest in company security and background checks.

Attendees will hear a keynote speech from industry veteran Jim Hebe. He started his career in the early 1970s with International Harvester Co., the predecessor of Navistar International Corp., and also served as a senior executive at Kenworth Trucks, Freightliner Trucks and Navistar.

Hebe, a member of the Automotive Hall of Fame, will share his perspectives on critical issues facing the trucking industry now and those projected in the near future, ATA said.

Meanwhile, on the same day as the executive forum, all of the Technology & Maintenance Council’s task forces — studying almost every component of a truck as well as the electronics — will convene and provide projections of what future generations of trucks will look like.

Another highlight is the exhibit hall, featuring more than 400 companies’ latest products, including heavy- and medium-duty vehicles and safety and information technology. A special session is focusing on the growing segment of alternative fuels.

The council also will announce the winner of the TMC Silver Spark Plug award, the group’s highest honor.

Arkansas Chamber of Commerce CEO Randy Zook will give a keynote address to the council during a breakfast meeting March 1. He is expected to describe the state’s efforts to reduce the technician shortage through its Be Professional, Be Proud outreach campaign.

Another session on the same issue will offer tips on what cutting-edge operations are doing to recruit, hire, develop and keep technicians.

Such challenges as innovations for next-generation vehicles and maintenance shops, as well as how the upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act will alter maintenance practices, also are on deck.

The Obama administration signed the food safety law in 2011. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it, which includes how trucks transport food.

Also, an update will be provided on the agreement among manufacturers, suppliers and service providers to make heavy-duty vehicle service information more easily accessible.

Other sessions are on 360-degree driver awareness technologies such as in-cab technologies including cameras, lane departure warnings and similar types of technology still evolving to help drivers see all around them at all times and thereby increase highway safety.

TMC’s industry awards luncheon on March 2 is to include other award winners: the Recognized Associates Award, Study Group Secretary Award, Peggy Fisher Study Group Leadership Award and Excellence in Maintenance Supervision Award.

The final day includes a Hands-on Lean Problem Solving Workshop, which is aimed at helping attendees solve fleet maintenance and vehicle and component manufacturing issues. Lean uses a team approach to identify problems, analyze the root cause, brainstorm countermeasures and implement solutions.

Attendees will be separated into small working groups to apply Lean principles to deal with electrical systems, tires and wheels, aftertreatment systems and shop management issues.

The meeting will conclude with Douglas White becoming chairman of TMC. The vice president of maintenance for Dunbar Armored of Hunt Valley, Maryland, has been vice chairman of the council.

He succeeds Tomlinson, who is maintenance director of South Shore Transportation in Sandusky, Ohio.

The council members will elect a new vice chairman.