Attending a truck show with a head for business
By Timothy D. Brady
Truck shows. There’s a lot more to one of these extravaganzas than shining chrome, polished wheels and truck beauty contests. Although these add enjoyment, a truck show offers opportunities on the business side of trucking that are hard to duplicate anywhere else.
It’s the best place to see what new equipment and technology is available, because manufacturers and service providers use these shows to introduce their innovations. It can be something as simple as new trailer lighting to an entirely new concept vehicle of the future.
Educational opportunities abound at many shows. Again, these cover the gambit from best business practices to the newest tax law changes to learning about new regulations and the means by which you can make them work within your operation. There are also discussion forums where truckers can exchange views on the different issues facing them; often, regulatory agencies will conduct listening sessions on newly-proposed or future regulations to get trucker feedback.
Knowing the right people is key to building your business and these shows offer networking opportunities for every type of driver. The company driver looking for a new carrier can find representatives from numerous companies in one place, as can the lease operator searching for a different trucking company with which to contract. The independent owner-operator has a chance to break the ice with brokers and shippers who can get them freight.
Drivers can shop for a multitude of equipment and services in one location. It’s a great chance to do necessary comparison shopping for the best price, not to mention many exhibitors at these events have special deals which can save the trucker money.
But, like everything else in business, you’ll accomplish far more if you have a plan than if you fly by the seat of your pants. So how do you successfully work a truck show?
Step 1: Visit the show’s website and find out who’s exhibiting and what types of educational programs will be offered. List the ones you find interesting under that truck show’s name. Once you’ve made lists for each show, go back and select the show or shows which have the greatest number of exhibitors and courses that will be a benefit to you and your operation.
Step 2: Set a budget for travel, lodging and meals while attending the show. Are you taking your truck, driving your car or flying? Check whether the show has truck parking and what restrictions they have for truckers wanting to stay in their trucks rather than a hotel. What kind of security will be in place to protect your truck or car while you’re at the show? Will there be an airport shuttle?
Step 3: Register to attend the show you’ve selected. Most truck shows permit you to register online. Many offer free admission for early registration, but if there is a fee, the earlier you register, the lower the price.
Step 4: Start planning the logistics to be at the show. As everyone in trucking knows, trying to be at a specific location on a specific date takes some real pre-planning and forward thinking to make it happen. Your best bet is to make three plans, so if one won’t work, you’ve still got two other choices.
Step 5: Make travel arrangements that fit your budget. For most truckers, the best means to get to a truck show is by hauling a load to the show’s area, and then have a load pre-planned for the day after you’ve finished participating in the show. Many truckers who live within a day’s drive of a show will simply drive over.
Step 6: Plan your actual visit. With exhibitors covering tens of thousands of square feet, having a pre-established itinerary is necessary. Most truck shows post a floor plan and exhibitor map. Use them so you get the most from the show.
Step 7: All work and no play can cause a bored trucker with sore feet. Many shows have free or inexpensive entertainment — some with top artists. So include these in your itinerary. Don’t forget to explore the restaurants and entertainment of the event’s host city. A night out on the town at a unique eating establishment can be the perfect finish to a productive day. Your spouse might even forgive you for celebrating your anniversary — again — at a truck show this year.
Company Driver - Getting Optimistic
“The benefits I receive as a company driver going to truck shows are: I get info on new and proposed regulations. Check out new equipment that can make my job easier (GPS, logging software, etc.). And finally, seeing my old friends and making new ones with whom I network during the year. In addition, it allows me to relax and be somewhat optimistic about the future of this profession I love.”
-Alan J. McGrath
Waletich Transportation, Kasota, Minn.
Lease Operators - One-Stop Shopping
“There are engineers, suppliers, equipment manufacturers, after-market suppliers, and plenty of seminars to attend. The seminars range from a variety of topics: safety and DOT regulations, fuel economy, log book information, insurance and networking opportunities with industry organizations. The truck shows are a one-stop shop for the owner-operator or small trucking company.”
-Darrold & Kathy Isham
Express-1, Inc., Buchanan, Mich.
Independent Trucker – Gearhead’s Paradise
“The benefits of attending a truck show are as varied as the people attending. I can’t think of any other place where one can see all the various types of technology available, new products and the people behind them, and the latest and greatest gadgets geared to our industry, all under one roof. In addition, you have the educational seminars and the ability to interact with some of the influential leaders in this industry. A truck show is a great place having all of these options together. If that isn’t enough, add some world-class entertainment at a very low price. Looks like the perfect place to spend a 34-hour reset.”
Janzen trucking, Elbing, Kan.