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April 3, 2016 8:00 PM, EDT

Video: Attendees Share Thoughts on 2016 MATS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A number of attendees of the 2016 Mid-America Trucking Show expressed disappointment truck manufacturers elected not to exhibit but said they still found the event worthwhile.

Organizers of the March 31-April 2 event had projected attendance at about 70,000, below the record of more than 81,000 set in 2015. Though there were 1,100 exhibitors, large spaces occupied in prior years by truck makers and other industry suppliers were replaced in the South Wing of the Kentucky Exhibition Center by a smaller truck dealer showcase.

“The vibe is definitely off,” said Jamey Cottery of J&O Cottery Transport of Toledo, Ohio. “But my life is trucks.  I’ve still got a lot of other connections here.”

“The nice thing about this place is you get to learn a lot,” Michigan resident Ray Hansen said.  “If it’s not something for me, you pick up things you can help other people with, other owners and drivers. You always pick up little tidbits that hopefully help the bottom line.”

But a few attendees did go so far as to say the change to the show could affect their decision to attend if truck makers again skip the event in future years. “It’s become a show where people just want to sell stuff,” said Joe Campanaro of Ottawa, Ontario. “Had I known they weren’t going to be here, I probably wouldn’t have come, honestly.”

Reaction was equally mixed among exhibitors. Some, including fleets in the drivers pavilion in the West Wing, were happy with the foot traffic and ability to showcase their latest products to tens of thousands of people. However, officials with some larger companies in the South Wing expressed some disappointment by the overall attendance.