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September 1, 2021 11:45 AM, EDT

TMC’s Fall Meeting to Feature Bustling Schedule, Strong Industry Showing

TMC 2020 exhibitsView of the exhibit floor at 2020 TMC. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council’s Fall Meeting & Transportation Technology Exhibition will feature a trade show, a technician skills competition and a series of educational sessions. 

The meeting, billed as the industry’s largest in-person gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic dashed plans for major live events, is Sept. 12-16 in Cleveland. The event will include more than a dozen educational sessions, breakfast and luncheon events, an exhibit hall, evening receptions, task force meetings and study group sessions.

Task forces are temporary groups meant to solve problems and then dissolve within a period of about two years, while study groups are permanent committees that explore problems.

Registration numbers indicate that members of the trucking industry are eager to see one another again in person. As of Aug. 25, TMC representatives had processed 2,260 registrations — and more were still coming in.

The event is shaping up to be the largest TMC Fall Meeting in the history of the council. TMC Executive Director Robert Braswell explained TMC has never held a fall meeting with a competition, educational offerings and a trade show rolled into one program. Ordinarily, the trade show happens at the annual meeting, which takes place early in the spring.

“We’re really excited about going out there, and the numbers that we are receiving are bearing that shared excitement,” Braswell told Transport Topics.

In order to best protect guests and staff members, TMC issued a list of health and safety tips, the first of which is getting vaccinated against the virus prior to the meeting. The council also advised people to cancel their attendance if they aren’t feeling well and practice social distancing when possible, and said physical contact while greeting others should be avoided.

Participants are encouraged to wear masks while in busy indoor spaces. TMC’s registration desk will have a stock of masks available for attendees. Hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the meeting facilities, and people are encouraged to wash their hands frequently.

TMC Technical Director Jack Legler said the real value of TMC meetings lies in the ability to interact with other people face-to-face — even if that face is partially obscured by a mask. He said organic conversations, whether they are negotiations or information exchanges, progress more readily in an in-person setting rather than in a virtual format.

“So much of that is done in the halls [and] in the anterooms,” Legler told TT. “Even in the sessions, it’s much more of a free-flowing conversation.”

SuperTech 2019

Judges look on as a competitor performs a skills test at 2019 SuperTech. (American Trucking Associations)

The National Technician Skills Competition, known as TMCSuperTech, will take on a condensed form due to social distancing and space limitations. The competition will take place Sept. 12 and will feature a written test and 11 skills stations, covering subjects such as transmissions, lighting, lubricants, coolants and brakes. (SuperTech normally features 78 stations.)

Braswell said 36 competitors are registered for this year’s competition. Awards will be presented during a luncheon Sept. 15.

The National Student Technician Competition, known as TMCFutureTech, will not be held in 2021.

Sessions will cover subjects such as electric powertrains, battery failure analysis, electronically controlled brakes and advanced driver assistance systems.

In particular, Braswell highlighted the technical session on the future of tractor-trailer connectivity and communications, which will take place in a classical debate structure Sept. 15. Two teams of three people will express opposing points of view on certain questions and propositions. Attendees will be able to use an audience response system to determine which team wins each debate point.

“It’s going to be very exciting because it has great implications for how equipment is going to be over the next 50 years,” Braswell said. “I’m hoping that this format catches on and we do more of it. We’re trying to elevate the discourse at the council. I think that sort of approach can be very successful.”

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