Eight year wait is over

May 6, 2016
Writer finally has the chance to attend MATS

I have just celebrated my eighth anniversary with Fleet Owner magazine this past April. Wow, eight years! I wasn’t sure I would make it to two years, let alone eight. I guess that’s the power of the trucking industry.

When I started at Fleet Owner, I knew very little about trucks. Today, I know a little more. I’ve had the opportunity to do things and travel to places I never thought I’d get to. My first experience driving a truck (Okay, not my first if you count my grandfather illegally allowing my 13-year-old self to pilot his company truck through the back roads of Rhode Island) came in Europe when my Swedish Volvo Trucks advisor told me to “go ahead, get in. It will be fine. I’ll be with you the entire time.”

Everything was fine until he told me to make a U-turn up ahead with the 750-hp. Volvo FH16 tractor and trailer.  Oh, and look out for oncoming traffic, he said, because we were turning onto a public road. But I survived—probably with a bunch of angry Swedish drivers trailing me. 

Since that first experience, I’ve had the chance to drive a wide variety of vehicles, including a South African-made bus in Germany. That didn’t end so well when left-right seemed to get lost in translation, and I nicked (if that’s what you call breaking a mirror and side window) the bus next to me. That ended my bus driving career.

But, to this day, I have yet to damage a tractor-trailer in North America, so my CSA score remains intact.

Still, through the years, there’s one thing I’ve never done—and that is to attend the Mid-America Trucking Show. I had heard all about the glam trucks, the fancy displays, the people, and the food.

And this year, I was asked to attend the annual event in Louisville. I was excited to see what this spectacle was all about, but then I heard that none of the truck manufacturers would be there.
Might they have heard about my bus-driving exploits in Germany and decided not to risk it? That’s probably it, so blame me.

Even without the manufacturers, though, I can report that my first Mid-America experience was a positive one. I talked to and met a lot of people, saw plenty of trucks (I loved looking at all the antique models), and even took in a Chevron “game show”  that included Lisa Kelly of Ice Road Trucker fame trying to sabotage the chances of the lucky contestant chosen from the audience.

Show organizers reported that attendance was 74,937, down slightly from the year before, and the 45th annual event had 1,102 exhibitors—the fourth highest total ever. No matter what anyone was predicting, there was much anticipation building as everyone wondered how many people would show up. The organizers have to be pleased with the final tally.

I spoke with some of the exhibitors, and they seemed pleased with the turnout. Several mentioned that they didn’t think there had been a drop-off in traffic to their booths this year. That certainly is good news.

One of the things that caught my attention during the show was the number of people attending with families, including kids. It was nice to see family involvement. I was also struck by the number of people who pulled wagons behind them collecting all the freebies being handed out from the booths. I can say that I was hit at least three times by people walking around with 3-ft.-long wood rulers.

What happens with the show going forward is anyone’s guess. Organizers are promising something big, so stay tuned. I can say I hope I have the chance to return again. There is still so much to see.  

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