By Dave Sweetman
As many know, I lost my wife and best friend, Laurie, in January. While I do not plan on making that a recurring topic, I need to say a very heartfelt thank you to all of you out there in Land Line Land. The number of calls, notes, e mail and letters that I received have been most overwhelming. I have had many readers and OOIDA members, many of whom I have never met, treat me as family and confidant. For all of your kindness, compassion and caring, I will say thank you very much. It means more than you know.
On to happier times, I made the trek to trucking mecca, the gathering of the trucking tribes, the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY. Leaving my Kenworth parked at home, I became one of those pesky four-wheelers and made the trip in the car. Along the way I noticed several things. Fewer trucks on the road, fewer loaded trucks on the road, more parking spaces and more closed truck weigh stations. Two out of four are good things.
Arriving at the showground, it seemed business as usual. Cool trucks, ugly trucks, show trucks, working trucks, trucks with duct tape, electric trucks, LP gas-powered trucks. Cool!
But even better were the truck people. Editor pal Suzanne Stempinski and I made the rounds of the show grounds and displays and we jokingly called it the 20-foot rule. We could barely walk 20 feet without seeing someone we knew. At times it was down to a 5-foot rule, there were so many familiar faces. The crowds of people belied the reports of a sick economy. The aisles were crowded, and the trinket grabbers were in full force.
I also got to spend a good bit of time at the OOIDA booth, talking with members new, old and prospective. A special treat for me: I got some heavy-duty feedback on past columns, as well as being able to share why OOIDA has been an important factor in my being a surviving small business truck owner. Getting to spend time with Todd Spencer and Jim Johnston was an even bigger plus.
In addition to the festivities, I had the great pleasure of attending many of the press events and manufacturer meetings, getting a look at the newest and greatest products to solve all of the problems of our industry. The ongoing debate over the benefits of EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) and DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) engine technology is enough to make your head spin. I asked many questions of the manufacturers and was not happy with the answers.
One of the most gratifying moments was being able to interview the Goodyear Highway Hero nominees and the grand award winner. They are all truly heroes, indeed. Our industry is represented by some very brave, selfless drivers who put themselves in danger to save strangers in serious situations.
Papa John’s Stadium had a whole different flavor of entertainment. OOIDA’s Ron Mermis had the NASCAR simulator set up doing his thrills and chills. Nearby was a step deck trailer equipped with sound equipment offering live entertainment, picking, singing and yarn spinning. The smell of BBQ filled the air. Truly one of those parties you don’t want to see end.
This year’s MATS experience was one of my personal favorites. Although there were some displays and companies obviously absent, the show organizers filled the spaces with vintage trucks. Could the show have been bigger? Perhaps, but considering the economy, it was still very busy and very crowded. I heard no complaining or doomsday talk. I heard no one asking for a buyout or economic stimulus. This was a happy bunch of folks.
I saw happy vendors selling products and making deals and consumers carting off parts and accessories, bumpers and generator systems, so there were deals to be had.
I also made the required poke chop sammich indulgences, so all is right with the trucking world once again (inside my head). I can’t wait for March 2010. LL
Dave Sweetman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.