Great Year Again For MATS

This is my take on this year’s Mid-America Truck Show. This will be my fifth year either exhibiting or attending this truck show. As in the years past this was a huge show, vendor, space, and attendee-wise. This year I was lucky to be invited to help with the UAMCC booth that was there to promote their membership and try to match up fleet washer contractors with fleet owners that could use their services. Soap Warehouse along with Jerry McMillen of SiroccoVacuums helped Nichole Anglin man the booth during the three-day event.

I think this year’s MATS had much better class offerings than in the past to start things off on Wednesday and all the normal big players in trucking were there. I got a chance to walk around the North and South Wing this time more than in some past years but I did not see any great new ideas or offerings. The special guests at displays were also fewer to me. There was Edgar Hansen from The Deadliest Catch, Erik Thompson the “The Yankee Hunter”, NASCAR’s Clint Bowyer, Country singers Tony Justice, Craig Morgan, and Sara Evans at different vendors over the three days. Another crowd pleaser was the Chrome & Elegance models and of course the Hooters girls. Not even listed and one I found out after we left is a favorite person of mine, Alex Debogorski from Ice Road Truckers who came in just on Saturday to the Bridgestone/Firestone booth and to hand out a plaque at the 2014 Paul K. Young Truck Awards and was never even listed anywhere I saw.

Soft side trailer covers were being sold by many more dealers this year, due to this being the third year since their arrival to the market, yet the question I posed to all of the ones I found could still not give me a good answer to the question, “What are the pH requirements for the soaps used to clean your fabric covers?” Most were just sales or pitch men that had no idea other than the basic, “Just use a mild dish soap like Dawn or Ivory.” Of course, for all you Fleet washers out there that is not much help because none of you are going to get a dirty truck cleaned with dish soap! Most of you have set contracts and ways to clean for the price contracted, such as two-stepping, which should not be used with these covers. Low acids and high-alkaline soaps cause fading and embrittlement of the fabric which will cause them to fail and rip. And no fleet owner wants to hear from their contractor, “Sorry but to clean your new trailers it will now cost you twice as much.” You have to wash the same truck twice, once to safely clean the fabric side trailer covers, and then a stronger soap to clean the road film and stack staining from the tractor and lower portion of the trailer. Here at Soap Warehouse, we are now working with the manufacturer we located that produces the fabric for these trailers and hopefully will soon be able to market a cleaner that will work on both the soft side covers and the rest of the rig as well.

Next, I saw more duplication of smaller vendors this year than in years past, like three aluminum welding systems, multiple aluminum wheel cleaning systems, and three C-Pac vendors. This is good for the truckers and being able to compare and price shop but it made for a more seen-it-all-before feel to many of the isles in the West Wing and Food Pavilion. I was happy to see one contractor in the Food Pavilion, who also happens to be a Soap Warehouse customer, that paid the high booth cost to attend the show and that was Power Washer Plus out of Bloomington, IN. I hope more contractors and professional organizations besides the UAMCC start to exhibit at these large shows to give the drive-through truck washes like Blue Beacon, Flying J, and Pilot more competition and options for the managers and owners of trucking fleets.

Nothing new with the swag giveaways this year. Nothing stood out to me; tons of pens, rulers, candy, and bags of all shapes, styles, and sizes but not any great must-have items. Mobil Delvac didn’t even have their iconic black cowboy hat that has been a crowd-pleaser the last few years. I guess they finally went through the 1,000,000-count supply they bought three years ago. Their free concert was a hit as usual and they had given out their entire supply of tickets well before mid-day on Friday for that night’s concert with Gretchen Wilson.

One new feature this year was MATS’s move into mobile social media with Cummins backing the official MATS app for both Android and Apple. But it was very late to be made available to the public and I did not find it that useful even after downloading it. I tried a few times to get info with it but found it still much easier and faster just to grab a buyer’s guide or the MATS Daily Guide.

This was the 25th anniversary of the PKY Truck Beauty Contest but I felt it was also a little subdued this year. There were fewer outrageously painted tractors and trailers. They said the entry number was up for this event but very few trucks were shown inside this year, due to more paying inside vendors taking up the room, and with the rain that moved in on Saturday there were not as many visitors out looking at the winners as in years past. I felt the traffic in the West Wing was also down since fewer people were walking through there to get to the Beauty Contest area.

All in all, it was a very good show and I enjoyed going. I hope many more of you get the chance to get to a huge National event like this and see the possibilities of new business networking there can bring you.