At­tend­ing a world renowned trucking in­dus­try trade show like the Mid- Amer­ica Trucking Show ( MATS) in Louisville, Ken­tucky was a real eye opener for a first time at­tendee like my­self.

Hav­ing at­tended many large ex­po­si­tions of this sort since early child­hood, both here in Canada as well as the U. S., one mis­tak­enly comes to the con­clu­sion that this show will be big, but un­til you ac­tu­ally get there and start walk­ing, it is im­pos­si­ble to even imag­ine the scope and range of par­tic­i­pants in this 46th an­nual event.

My fa­ther first at­tended this event in 2015 and mar­veled at the sheer size of the venue and the dis­plays. He did not at­tend in 2016, since the Orig­i­nal Equip­ment Man­u­fac­tur­ers ( OEM’S) scaled back their in­volve­ment. We re­solved that in 2017, we would go as a two per­son team of writer and pho­tog­ra­pher. Prop­erly see­ing and cov­er­ing the show in one day is not pos­si­ble.

This year, Peter­bilt, Ken­worth and Mack were back with large dis­plays, as well as Western Star with a smaller dis­play than in 2015, but well rep­re­sented none­the­less. Most of the OEM’S favour an odd year sched­ule for their par­tic­i­pa­tion, since the in­dus­try show in Hanover, Ger­many, is held on an even year sched­ule. Hav­ing some­thing new and in­no­va­tive to dis­play ev­ery year does not hap­pen in the heavy truck in­dus­try, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for the man­u­fac­tures to see an eco­nomic jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for their par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Volvo and Nav­is­tar ( In­ter­na­tional Trucks) were ab­sent. Freight­liner Team Run Smart rep­re­sented the brand with a dis­play.

Ford showed their fleet of com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles and had a fun in­ter­ac­tive con­test for show at­ten­dees.

All of the ma­jor trailer man­u­fac­tur­ers had large dis­plays, ne­ces­si­tated by the sheer size of the of­fer­ings on dis­play. Hyundai Translead, Util­ity, Mac Trail­ers, Frue­hauf and East Man­u­fac­tur­ing were among the many trailer man­u­fac­tur­ers on hand. Keith Man­u­fac­tur­ing showed their in­no­va­tive walk­ing floor tech­nol­ogy, used by many trailer man­u­fac­tur­ers to make trailer load­ing and un­load­ing faster, safer and more prac­ti­cal.

Canada was well rep­re­sented by Manac Trail­ers and Star­gate Man­u­fac­tur­ing with dis­plays show­ing that trail­ers made in Canada do com­pete with the best of­fer­ings in the mar­ket­place world­wide.

After­mar­ket and OEM sup­pli­ers such as Al­coa Wheels, Al­li­son Trans­mis­sions, Bendix, Borg-warner, Bosch, Cum­mins, Delco-remy, Hen­dick­son, Ridewell Sus­pen­sions and Wabco were some, but cer­tainly not all play­ers in that seg­ment on dis­play.

Qual­ity tires are a ma­jor ex­pense to the trucking in­dus­try given the crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture and road sur­faces in North Amer­ica, so the tire man­u­fac­tur­ers had large dis­plays high­light­ing their lat­est of­fer­ings. B.F. Goodrich, Con­ti­nen­tal, Cooper, Falken, Goodyear, Hankook, Kumho, Su­mit­omo, Uniroyal and many lesser known brands were rep­re­sented.

Tool and Re­pair Equip­ment Man­u­fac­tur­ers were well rep­re­sented. Gray Man­u­fac­tur­ing, for ex­am­ple, had a very large dis­play high­light­ing their equip­ment. The hand op­er­ated lift­ing tools and stands, hoists and por­ta­ble heavy ve­hi­cle lifts on dis­play showed that North Amer­i­can prod­ucts built to a high stan­dard are amongst the best in the world. Over eighty ex­hibitors rep­re­sented this seg­ment of the trucking in­dus­try.

Safety equip­ment sup­pli­ers, parts sup­pli­ers, paint sup­pli­ers, lu­bri­cant, ad­di­tive and sealant man­u­fac­tur­ers, fil­ter man­u­fac­tur­ers, truck light­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers, truck stop op­er­a­tors, in­sur­ance com­pa­nies spe­cial­iz­ing in pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion in­dus­try cov­er­age, lo­gis­tics firms, fi­nan­cial ser­vice providers, trucking in­dus­try re­cruiters and just about any­thing else re­lated to the trucking in­dus­try is at MATS. There were a large num­ber of truck tun­ing and cus­tomiz­ing ven­dors.

Shows of this na­ture con­stantly evolve and MATS is no dif­fer­ent. In 2016, when the OEM’S did not at­tend due to the high cost of their in­volve­ment as well as the eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties in the trucking in­dus­try, the show adapted. This year, most of the man­u­fac­tur­ers re­turned, but there were, ac­cord­ing to my fa­ther, many more re­stored trucks and vin­tage ve­hi­cles on dis­play. These trucks were of real in­ter­est to show go­ers.

There was even a 1975 Dodge with

175 miles on the odome­ter. It is now owned by the son of the dealer who orig­i­nally sold the ve­hi­cle. The ve­hi­cle is ex­actly as it was man­u­fac­tured with only the patina of 42 years of stor­age chang­ing its orig­i­nal ap­pear­ance.

As a Me­chan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing Tech­nol­o­gist who owns three class eight trucks and does all the re­pairs nec­es­sary to keep them run­ning safely, I found that the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the com­pa­nies with booths at the show could an­swer the very in depth ques­tions I asked them. Sim­ply put, they knew their stuff!

Al­though the 1.2 mil­lion square foot show is an in­tim­i­dat­ing chal­lenge to com­plete with­out a com­fort­able pair of shoes, my over­all take­away from this ex­pe­ri­ence is that the show was much larger and bet­ter than I had en­vi­sioned. It was cer­tainly worth the nine hour driv­ing time from the Toronto area.

It is im­pos­si­ble to in­clude all par­tic­i­pants with booths and dis­plays in this sum­mary. Any omis­sions were due to space lim­i­ta­tions for this ar­ti­cle.

If you are a per­son with any in­ter­est in the trucking in­dus­try, vis­it­ing this show at least once is an item that should be on your bucket list.


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