Last week again found droves of heavy-duty suppliers filling every square inch of exhibit space inside and outside the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville for the industry’s annual rite of spring, the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS).
The editors of FleetOwner were there in force to report on developments revealed at the show as well as at dozens of press conferences and during other newsworthy events.
As for providing a sense of the show, in a nutshell it was distinguished in part by no roll-outs of entirely new truck models, engines or major components.
On the other hand, truck OEMs discussed various product enhancements, such as fuel-efficiency packages, they’ve recently made or will be introducing this year. These manufacturers also zeroed in on further improvements they’re making in the parts-and-service arena, particularly in terms of telematics offerings and dealer–support efforts.
Truck builders as a group along with several component manufacturers were fairly bullish on the outlook for Class 8 truck sales this year, forecasting for the most part that the 2014 figure will come in somewhere around 240,000 units, with 220,000 cited as the low end and 265,000 at the high.
A lot of truck OEM exhibit space was devoted to showing off alternative-fueled vehicles, especially for trucks powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) engines. The presence of purveyors of these fuels and related technology, especially fueling infrastructure, were also well represented on the show floor.
That being said, it was noteworthy that in his address at the annual Heavy Duty Manufacturers Assn. breakfast at MATS, Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Daimler’s global truck and bus business, asserted that he is “convinced that a highly efficient diesel engine will remain the most important alternative in the United States.”
“We don’t see any long-haul applications [for natural gas] so far,” Bernhard said. “One of our suppliers put a 15L [natural-gas engine] on hold because we don’t see the customers. I see a little bit of hesitancy. The hype is broken. There is more realism.”
Also diesel-related, at a news conference Goran Nyberg, president of North American sales and marketing for Volvo Trucks, noted that when compared to the company’s 2013 engines, new Volvo heavy-duty diesels certified as meeting the 2014 federal greenhouse gas emissions standards are showing up to a 3% improvement in fuel economy. He said that increase is 1% higher than what was originally indicated by testing.
Certainly, there were plenty of product introductions at the show geared toward improving fuel efficiency, but arguably the biggest splash of all the show was the first showing to the industry at large of the Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience (AVE) “demonstration concept” tractor-trailer.
Built for the retail giant by a large project team of suppliers led by Peterbilt Motors, Great Dane and Roush Engineering, the futuristic rig, per Walmart, features “leading edge aerodynamics, an advanced turbine-powered, range-extending series hybrid powertrain, electrified auxiliary components and sophisticated control systems all in one package, developed in support of the company’s industry-leading sustainability program.”
Other show news of note includes the announcement made by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro that the agency is “confirming” its plans to study whether expanding the use of split rest in sleeper berths can improve both safety and productivity.
In addition, here are direct links to some of the major news stories, photo galleries and videos that can be found within our special MATS page: