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

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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.

Trucker Bud­dies

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

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