MATS Preview 2011
The king of trucking shows
More than that, it's one big trucking family reunion

By Sandi Soendker, managing editor

The handshakes, backslaps and outright hugs will be plentiful at the 2011 Mid-America Trucking Show when the industry reunites in Louisville, KY, at the end of March.

The aisles will be packed with truckers ready to see the latest and greatest offerings by exhibitors. But, more than that, they will be packed with members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The sea of caps and jackets sporting the OOIDA logo will abound as usual as members of the Association return to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville from all corners of the country.

The first MATS show was held in 1972, and there were 83 exhibitors and about 4,000 truckers in attendance. It was the brainchild of Paul K. Young and the private management group, Exhibit Management Associates or EMA, and is still totally a family affair.

For 40 years, this Louisville business has steered the event. Paul’s son Tim Young became president of EMA in 1990. Paul died of cancer in 1998. The following year, the family began honoring the patriarch with the Paul K. Young Memorial Truck Beauty Championship.

Tim is still a major resource, but his son Toby is now president at age 34. This is his fifth year at the top of EMA. I remember Toby as a teenager working the doors, doing a bit of everything.

My first show was about 1990. I remember at that point it was packed to the gills. They called in the architects. By 1991, the south wing phase 1 added more room. By 1994, the south wing phase 2 added even more room. By then, MATS had more than 600 exhibitors and 35,000 attendees.

Here’s why it’s the king of the truck shows.

By the end of the ’90s, there was more than a million square feet of space. But it didn’t end there. In 2006, the South Wing phase 3 was completed. A total of 1.2 million square feet of space could then accommodate nearly 1,200 exhibitors, and the show was drawing about 80,000 attendees.

Despite the down economy, MATS 2010 still featured an impressive 965 exhibiting companies representing 45 states and 12 foreign countries, encompassing more than 1 million square feet of exhibits and events. Last year, 70,647 trucking professionals from all 50 states and 59 foreign countries made the trip to Louisville for the most anticipated three days in trucking.

OOIDA organized the year after the first Mid-America Trucking Show and began exhibiting many years ago with just a table (yeah, we had a tablecloth). It was a membership venture and two reporters covered it. One was me. When our marketing dude, Mike Schermoly, came on board, he decided we had to have a real booth. Now we have three booths inside, including one in the lobby, and the Spirit truck is at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium parking lot.

Toby told us last year that the monster event is attracting more members of the foreign press than he’s ever seen. In 2010, 53 members of the trucking press from countries outside the U.S. were registered to cover the show. This includes media from Canada, the U.K, France, Sweden, Russia, Norway, the Netherlands, Nigeria, New Zealand, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Australia and a few others.

Staff from OOIDA’s magazine Land Line and satellite radio show Land Line Now will head to Louisville, too. Along with the international gaggle of reporters and editors, OOIDA media will be pushing out show happenings and trucking news via multiple formats on multiple platforms on a multitude of devices.

The staff will also be sharing news stories, photos and video on OOIDA’s online websites – landlinemag.com and ooida.com – and on OOIDA’s daily radio show, Land Line Now, on Sirius XM Road Dog Channel. Readers can also follow the events via subscriber e-mail and updates on Facebook and Twitter.

You can share the feel and get the flavor of the show via our blog, “Pork Chop Diaries.” If one of the truck manufacturers introduces a new model, you’ll be among the first to see photos or maybe even video. All those cool new products? We’ll give you the skinny.

And if we see Elvis, we’ll let you know. LL