Truck sales and orders suggest this could be the second-strongest year for North American heavy-duty vehicles on record, so the organizers of the Mid-America Trucking Show are paring the width of pedestrian aisles and chopping square footage for the food court to create more space for exhibitors.
Toby Young, president of Exhibit Management Associates, the show’s owner and operator, also said there is a “a good chance” of setting a new attendance record for the event founded by his late grandfather, Paul Young.
“This year we sold out the show faster than any other time over the last 15 years. There will be 1,061 exhibitors — which is fewer than last year — but the exhibitors are taking up more space on average,” Young told Transport Topics last week.
The 44th Mid-America Trucking Show, or MATS, runs March 26-28 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. Some related events are also scheduled in the city prior to the official opening of North America’s largest annual truck show.
Last year’s attendance was 79,061 people and the record is 80,972, which was set in 2012. Attendees are treated to the latest development of everything from tractors and trailers to components and technology.
“I want to walk around and find out where capacity is within the industry — see if there are any soft spots within the supply chain,” said Kenny Vieth, president of ACT Research Co. His Columbus, Indiana-based firm tracks sales, orders, build rates and other data from truck and trailer makers.
ACT’s 2015 production forecast is for 340,000 North American Class 8 trucks.
“That would nip 2005,” Vieth said of the year when production was 339,000. The production record was 376,000 in 2006.
Vieth has been going to MATS since 1991, and his firm schedules a seminar for his clients before the trucking show starts. His firm’s event ends with a field trip to the showroom floor at the Exposition Center, which has 1 million square feet of indoor space.
The stock-analyst clients who use ACT have long participated, but now they’re bringing guests — the investment managers for mutual funds, retirement plans and hedge funds, he said.
“The analysts all have a coterie of 10 people with them. They come to kick the tires,” Vieth said.
Although MATS is well-known as a major event for owner-operators, company drivers and small fleets, Young said the show has become far more diverse and now Bowman Field, the older of Louisville’s two airports, is reserved for corporate jets and private planes.
Young said he coordinates with Bowman officials because it’s a very busy time for the field, trumped only by the legendary Kentucky Derby.
At last year’s MATS, industry groups officially kicked off the “Trucking Moves America Forward” campaign. This year, officials with the image movement will provide an update and will convene a public seminar on March 27.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association uses MATS to meet with members, OOIDA spokeswoman Norita Taylor said. The parking lot of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, the football facility for the University of Louisville, is a major hangout for independent drivers.
In addition to displays of new trucks, trailers and engines, MATS is also a major recruitment event for drivers, with truckload and other motor carriers seeking drivers to move loads.
Anne Ferro, the former head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said she went to the lot, where driver recruitment was carried out, when she went to MATS to talk to drivers. She was a frequent participant in the show, running listening and explanation sessions on rules, events that often resulted in stern lectures from drivers.
This year, FMCSA’s delegation will be led by Annie Collins, associate administrator for field operations, agency spokesman Duane DeBruyne said.
FMCSA is leading a seminar a day on March 26-28. The topics are driver medical fitness, hazardous materials and tank cargo; another session to be led by Collins is “Safety First, Every Life Matters.”
The California Air Resources Board, the Kentucky State Police and several businesses are also hosting seminars.
Article by: Jonathan S. Reiskin, Associate News Editor
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