Trucking’s beautiful people

May 3, 2017
One thing stood out among much to notice at MATS

It’s several weeks ago that I got back from covering my first Mid-America Trucking Show, and my first time in Louisville, or even Kentucky, for that matter. I’ve been lucky to experience a number of trucking events now, but this was my first MATS. Lots of things stood out to me, as I expected, but there was one thing I was more and more aware of the longer I was there.

It had started as I made my way to the show. As I got closer—but still as far away as a hub airport waiting for a connecting flight—I started running into others who also were going to MATS. I’d overhear them talking and sometimes would speak with them.

I’d mention it was my first time going, and then I’d get these smiles and funny looks. “Well, you’re sure in for something,” was sort of the tone I was getting. And I also picked up on this kind-of-joking, kind-of-not-joking sense that the MATS crowd was a bunch of rural folks—no, let me say it for real: hicks.

What I was getting was this sort of message to, you know, just watch yourself a little—those MATS folks are a bunch of hicks.

At the show, I saw something else. The longer I was there, I noticed I was hearing more “excuse me’s” and “thank you’s” and had more doors opened and held for me to pass through them than I can recall in some years. I saw people who were helping each other and were noticeably kind and courteous.

“The more you hang around in trucking ... these genuine, great people are what you’ll find.”

- Aaron Marsh, Fleet Owner Senior Editor

If you trek back and forth a few times at MATS between the West Wing and South Wing showrooms, not only will you realize that it’s a goodly ways, but it’s also expansive—and sometimes difficult to find a certain booth or location. I couldn’t for the life of me find this one particular booth on those tear-out, centerfold maps they give you.

There I was in one of the long hallways leading to seminar rooms and exhibition floors and not finding what I needed to, running out of time to get there and starting to sweat it. Suddenly, someone is standing next to me. “Where are you trying to find?” he asks. “I just figured out this whole thing!” And he proceeds to help me find where I had to get to.

And it wasn’t easy! It was actually almost comically difficult. A tiny bit of the edge had torn off one of my maps, and sure enough, that one farthest edge of it was where I was trying to go (and that’s sure what it felt like to walk there). But Richard Bacon, of Walbert Trucking, in Glasgow, KY—yes, sir, I did see your name badge—refused to give up until we’d solved my geographic difficulties.

Things like that kept happening, and I kept feeling more and more at home, you could say, and smiling about it. And I say that very deliberately. I started to realize it felt a little like being with the (sometimes) slightly lower-key, often very interesting and talented, certainly less urbanized, good folks of Vestal, NY, the great little town in upstate New York where I’m from. I bet it’s the same in many such places.

And eventually, when I got to my seat on that first leg of my flight home (in the very last row of the plane, no less), sure enough, I was sitting next to someone who’d also been at MATS. He was an exhibitor by the name of Leo Drexler who was at MATS for DAS Companies, owner of the RoadPro family of brands.

Leo and I traded a few war stories. Mine went like this: “At the end of the day, there are only so many miles you can walk in boots...” He also had felt the “mileage” at the conference, as those there for multiple days likely do, but said the people at MATS coming to the company’s booth had been refreshing. They were grateful and appreciative, wanting to spin a wheel and win prizes.

Everyone was coming by and having so much fun just to win whatever, and it was a good time. “I could just eat that up for days,” Leo told me. “It was really great. They’re beautiful people.” 

Yes, that’s what it was, Leo; you said it. They’re beautiful people. Whatever nonsense others might say, the more you hang around in trucking—with the real trucking folks—these genuine, great people are what you’ll find.    

About the Author

Aaron Marsh

Before computerization had fully taken hold and automotive work took someone who speaks engine, Aaron grew up in Upstate New York taking cars apart and fixing and rewiring them, keeping more than a few great jalopies (classics) on the road that probably didn't deserve to be. He spent a decade inside the Beltway covering Congress and the intricacies of the health care system before a stint in local New England news, picking up awards for both pen and camera.

He wrote about you-name-it, from transportation and law and the courts to events of all kinds and telecommunications, and landed in trucking when he joined FleetOwner in July 2015. Long an editorial leader, he was a keeper of knowledge at FleetOwner ready to dive in on the technical and the topical inside and all-around trucking—and still turned a wrench or two. Or three. 

Aaron previously wrote for FleetOwner. 

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