As expected, ATA's Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) Annual Meeting and Expo last month was a busy one. Technology took center stage for the majority of the event, with dozens of new product announcements and educational sessions geared around emerging technologies such as telematics and remote diagnostics, alternative powertrain designs and more.
If you didn't make it to Orlando, had to leave early or just couldn't quite keep up with everything happening, here's our comprehensive recap of everything Trucks, Parts, Service covered during the busy week.
TMC kicked off as it always does with a full slate of new product announcements on Sunday, Feb. 26.
TPS had people on site covering all of it and the other new products that followed during the event expo. The best way to see everything that was released during TMC is to check out the always updating New Product Releases section on our website. As a quick glance indicates, a lot of products hit the market at the end of February and first days in March.
The second day of TMC was task force day, when the council's more than dozen study groups get together to develop, update and brainstorm recommended practices (RP) for maintenance in the trucking industry. That's when we checked in in on the progress of a proposed RP for Safety Aspects for Electric Vehicles in service operations.
Chaired by Navistar’s Chas Voyles, the new task force hopes to develop a final RP document within the next two years and bring a fully formed RP to ballot at TMC’s Fall Meeting in 2024. Voyles admitted the timeline is accelerated — most RP take twice as long to develop — but said it is necessary. Most technicians in heavy-duty service bays today have never serviced a BEV in any capacity. Voyles said, “50 volts can stop a human heart” and added “education is of the upmost importance.”
TMC also had a strong list of technical sessions during the week.
When TMC looked at powertrains of the future, we were there. “There’s no silver bullet for the industry was we look to decarbonize,” said PepsiCo's Adam Buttgenbach. “Our goal is to leverage the best technology for the best duty cycle and decarbonize sooner rather than later.”
When the council returned to EVs again with a technical session on technician safety, we made sure to be on hand. Echoing Voyles' statement above, the panelists were clear about the dangers that exist around high-voltage EV technology and advised all in attendance who intend to service EVs to put in the time now to learn. “A learn as you go approach is not really acceptable in a battery electric world,” said NACFE's Rick Mihelic.
But TMC didn't forget about everyday maintenance either. The council's business session on aftermarket brake linings was meant to be a call to action and a warning to the fleet and service provider community about the importance of safety testing of aftermarket friction. The panelists said TMC's RP 628 exists to provide validation of aftermarket friction and peace of mind for truck owners that when they replace their brakes during a service event that they won't experience any degradation in stopping distance.
Finally, TMC looked at trucking's technician pipeline and the continuing issues we have with recruiting and retaining new talent. The panel discussion was lively, with recruiting professionals in the fleet, travel center and service sectors presenting conventional and progressive ideas about how trucking companies and service shops can engage with young people and highlight the rewarding technical careers that exist in trucking. "We're eating our young," said ASE's George Arrants. "We throw these young people to the wolves and expect them to be successful."