By John Blodgett, MacKay & Company

We have completed the first quarter of 2018. This initial three months of the year are a trade show bonanza for the trucking industry. It starts with HDAD/HDAW in January, followed by an alphabet soup of shows and confer-ences: TMC (part of ATA), NTEA, TCA, MATS and ATD (part of NADA). I would spell them all out, but I only get one page for this column.

As one of the people who attends many of them, I am always impressed by the work the vehicle and component manufacturers and other suppliers put into making these shows a success. The coordination of getting booths to differ-ent cities (must be some good for-hire carriers) and staffing them with talented, knowledgeable professionals is always impressive.

I noticed many new booths this year or booths upgraded to the point I thought they were new. There was more technology incorporated into booths, such as large video displays (Truck-Lite had a large screen to display their Road Ready trailer telematics product), educational product displays (Dana displayed old and new driveshaft designs), more fun (WABCO’s truck driving simulator) and the always popular bars and deep, padded carpet (Great Dane, Hendrickson and others).

There were new products and suppliers, including new aerodynamic trailer products (Michelin was one), predictive analytics firms and Cummins’ display of electric-powered tractors.

Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, look online at Shell and AirFlow Truck Company’s Starship futuristic-looking truck (which drives on the road today). It is even cooler in person — I would like to see it moving down the road with a STEMCO Trailer Tail deployed, which would make an impressive profile.

NTEA and TMC had a considerable number of presentations on new technologies and products with reviews from fleets that are actually testing all types of new products. At NTEA — primarily a show focused on work trucks — it was impressive to see some new products focus on reducing idling time, as well as Hino’s new Class 7 and 8 trucks. At TMC, Hyliion HE Drive Axle won the 2018 Jim Windsor Technical Achievement Award with its fuel-saving electric drive-axle system, which was very impressive and not the only one being promoted at TMC.

Most of the shows I attended this first quarter reported record participation by suppliers and participants, another indication of the positive economic environment we are enjoying in the trucking industry. Certainly, the mood of the vendors and attendees also seemed to be very positive. There are more trade shows and industry events with a variety of letters coming up after the first quarter, such as ACT, GATS, NTPC, IAA and AAPEX, all with different focuses and themes but with many similar vendors.

Granted you can get some insights on most of these products from the various trade publications and websites (I would recommend Truck Parts & Service), but I don’t think you get the same value as talking with a company representative and seeing actual products.

So if you have been staying home the first three months of the year to enjoy Nor’easters or Arizona and Virginia’s road to the Final Four, time to get out and find a trade show.

John Blodgett has worked for MacKay & Company for more than 20 years and is currently vice president of sales and marketing, responsible for client contact for single and multi-client projects. He can be reached at

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