TRUCKS MAKING AMERICA GREAT
The Great American Trucking Show is one of the big truck events on the North American calendar. Rod Hannifey set up camp at the 2018 show
The Great American Trucking Show – one of the big truck events on the North American calendar
THIS YEAR’S GREAT AMERICAN TRUCKING SHOW (GATS) in Dallas, Texas, had some magnificent trucks on display. Held at the Dallas Convention Centre, it’s also one of the largest venues in the country.. It wasn’t only about trucks however. New technology and health concerns surrounding truck drivers were also high on the agenda. I caught up with Rebecca Brewster, president and CEO of the American Transport Research Institute, and completed their survey on detention issues. Truckers, as always, seem to be bearing the brunt of those who use and abuse our time to help themselves, but then do not want to pay for it.
I spoke with the Texas Department of Transport about truck rest areas. They explained that when they spend $15 million on one side, and hence $30 million to build rest areas on both sides of a highway, funding is dependent on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, road safety aspects, historical significance in the area, and animals.
There was a fairly serious health area within the convention centre where you could have your blood sugar and cholesterol tested. A kidney function test included taking a small bottle in a plain paper bag to the nearby toilet facilities. I submitted to both and came away with slightly raised cholesterol. We will blame that on a diet from eating at various truck stops while in the US (I had to see how the other half lives of course), but overall the other tests revealed good results and my BMI was right on target.
I looked at the next seating technology, namely electronic seats. I hope to hear from them about a trial for the next TruckRight Industry Vehicle here in Australia.
Three tanker drivers from Newcastle along with a couple of other truckies from home dropped by and said hello and the evening finished with a free feed and drink for exhibitors, then back to the motel.
Drivers in trouble
The following day I did a video interview I had arranged with Donna Kennedy, executive director of the St Christopher Truckers Relief Fund, and spoke with her about what they did for drivers stranded and/or are in financial trouble. There was also a group who help with the recovery of the body of a driver and a group who specialises
“Health concerns surrounding truck drivers were also high on the agenda.”
in truck stop law and fighting for drivers’ rights in court.
Unfortunately I missed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) session on ‘Hours of Service’. However, I managed to catch up with Raymond Martinez, FMCSA safety administrator, who I had met previously at the National Truck Driving Championships in Columbus, Ohio. I invited Raymond to visit Australia so he could see how our hours work.
The Rookie of the Year was announced during the show, along with the winners of the Pride and Polish trucks and the finals of the Trucker Talent Quest.
That night there was a concert featuring Tony Justice, a fulltime trucker, now with four albums out. He took part in the Talent Quest, introducing the artists and singing while the judges made their decision.
I later interviewed Justice, getting his answer to my lead question and asked about how he saw things from his perspective in dealing with the music and media industries. He said he is still struggling to get heard outside of trucking. I asked if he had heard of Slim Dusty, to which he replied ‘no’ but would follow it up.
Justice performed again at the truck parking area for drivers on the Saturday morning. At the parking area there was also an auction, which raised $15,775 for the St Christopher Truckers Relief Fund. Afterwards I received an email that a transport company matched the funds raised
“We discussed using Truckie Mate as an offshoot or subsidiary of Trucker Buddy in Australia.”
at the auction, thereby doubling the amount for the St Christopher Truckers Relief Fund.
I spoke with some more exhibitors and also caught up with an Aussie truckie who now lives in Montana on a ranch and does a daytime driving job. He invited me to stay and do a day’s run with him over the mountains next time I’m in the US.
On the last day of the show I caught up with K.C. Brau, the past president of Trucker Buddy. The aim of Trucker Buddy is to match truckers with school teachers and act as pen pals for the children, sending information as they travel across the US, using their jobs to help with education, geography, maths for loads and weights, and so on. Trucker Buddy not only gives out information on trucks and road transport, but also contributes information that the classes can use with other work.
Trucker Buddy is something I was previously aware of and did aim to bring to Australia years ago, but simply could not do it alone. But I will have another go. We discussed using Truckie Mate as an offshoot or subsidiary of Trucker Buddy in Australia.
I won a headset at the last minute and, with the show finishing at 4pm, packed up and dragged all my gear to the hotel next door for a meal with Dirk Kupar, one of the Trucker Buddy board members. As a driver, he has been linked to one teacher for nearly 17 years. He says he’s spoken with others who were keen to offer some support and to see it get up back home.
I am hopeful we will have something up and running within the year, but it may need some funding to set up as it requires police checks in working with children.
Thanks to the organisers for the stand and hospitality. I hope to get back there again soon. For those looking at making the trip, the 2019 show will run from August 22 to 24 in Dallas.
Opposite: Traveloko’s Kenworth had a military-themed wrap for the show
From top: This 2018 Kenworth W900L tipper, nicknamed ‘Beast of Burden’, won Best in Show at the Builder’s Class category; Double delight: This 2016 Kenworth W900 and Fontaine Infinity flatbed came out on top in the Working Combo category; A patriotic 1988 FLT Freightliner
Above L to R: One of two Fedex Freightliners on show, both trucks being used as part of a competition where contestants had to find as many defects on the trucks as possible in 10 minutes; Lil Ray’s Transport brought its stunning 1999 Peterbilt, nicknamed ‘Uno Más’ over from Salinas, CaliforniaOpposite top L to R: The Peterbilt line-up; Tony Justice on stage at the Trucker Talent Search Opposite below: Clark Freight Lines, from nearby Pasadena, showed off its 1985 Kenworth K100E