Talents on display

| August 01, 2006

Truckers who haul to trade shows face logistic challenges and long waiting times – but the light loads often pay well.

It’s mid-August, the sun is hot in Dallas, and there’s less than one day left to set up the Great American Trucking Show.

Tractor-trailers snake up a four-story corkscrew ramp to the freight area of the Dallas Convention Center. It’s a tight fit but manageable for the dozens of trucks hauling 53-foot trailers loaded with booths, special equipment and even other trucks. Some have backed up to the dock and are being unloaded, while others wait in a lot a few miles away for their call to unload.

On the docks, Paul Lemoine, a tradeshow manager, is carefully orchestrating the movement of trucks. Like the space leading up to the docks, time is tight. The Texas Nursery and Landscape Association’s annual tradeshow vacated the convention center at 7 the night before, leaving Lemoine’s staff just 12 hours to clean the halls and mark the floor for the next show and its hundreds of thousands of square feet of exhibit space.

Now trucks from all over the country are arriving at the show with cargo to unload. In just two days, tens of thousands of truckers, fleet executives, trucking media and vendors will flood the floor, and GATS will come alive.

“There are a ton of logistics to get all this to fit,” Lemoine says, pointing to trucks on the docks. “There’s electronics, carpet, lighting. You have to stage the trucks in the right order or something won’t fit.”

Although Lemoine handles the logistics in the convention hall, it’s the truckers – household goods haulers working for the tradeshow division of their company, owner-operators with a load to a show, or employees of companies that display – who make sure the show goes on.

On the dock of the Dallas Convention Center, trucker Earl Kreinbrook of Hickory Flat, Miss., relaxes on a crate inside his trailer, waiting for convention center laborers to unload his truck. He is loaded with equipment for the Ford Motor Company booth, including several large flat-screen TVs.

Waiting to get unloaded is the hardest part of tradeshow hauling, many truckers say.

“Sometimes it takes a little bit longer to get unloaded than it would with a typical load,” says Kreinbrook, who hauls for the Showtime Division of Atlas Van Lines. “I’m used to lumping on my own, but convention centers do their own unloading.”

The wait depends on which booth you’re hauling, says Dan Dailey, a driver for Allied Van Lines who hauled materials for the ExxonMobil booth at the 2005 GATS. “Your load may be first in, or sometimes you sit all day and wait,” he says.

You may even have to wait if you’re the second truck to unload. “If the guy who’s supposed to be first isn’t here on time, it slows everything down behind it,” Lemoine says.

And if your booth is the first in, it’s often the last to be picked up.

Besides waiting to unload, tradeshow haulers also face other hurdles, most notably getting in and out of convention centers that may not have been designed for trucks with 53-foot trailers.

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