Talents on display

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.

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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.

The Dallas Convention Center isn’t bad, Kreinbrook says. “There’s actually a little more room than I anticipated. Most are not too bad, but it’s hard get to dock on time.”

Louisville, which hosts the Mid-America Trucking Show, is also easy to get in and out of, but shows in Las Vegas and Los Angeles have more obstacles, Kreinbrook says. “Los Angeles is not a picnic.”

“Some places are real hard to work,” Dailey agrees. “They’re tight to get into. They design them for conventions but not for trucks.”

Still, Dailey prefers hauling tradeshow materials to household goods, which he did for many years before his knees started bothering him. “This is a lot easier,” he says.

For big shows and big clients, a driver’s trailer might be loaded with goods destined for just one show. Sometimes tradeshow loads are piecemealed like less-than-truckload hauls. Dailey says he often has booths destined for different tradeshows inside the same van.

“The loads pay good, and the weight is good,” says owner-operator Newton Shackelford, who does a few tradeshows every year for his carrier M. Hart Express. He says the loads really pay off – up to 30 percent more than comparable loads, and he gets better mileage and stays out of scale houses because the loads are usually light.

Shackleford says he rarely gets to see the result of his work, because he picks up and delivers another load while the show is going on. “I’m loading out of Dallas tonight and going to St. Louis. I’ll probably come back and pick it up this weekend, but I never know.
“I only see the show at Louisville when I take the time off. I can’t keep my truck off the road for a show because if my truck ain’t running, I’m not making money.”

Still, some drivers do make time to check out the shows they’re helping to transport. That opportunity is one reason Kreinbrook likes hauling tradeshow materials.

“I see a lot of different things at the shows, and I meet a lot of nice people,” he says.
Kreinbrook is a regular at MATS, where he takes time off to walk the floors.

Some drivers – especially ones who work for companies that display – stick around to see and work the show. Bob Ward, a veteran driver of 20 years, owes his current career to working the show floor for a company. Ward drove a flatbed over the road for United Van Lines before joining a small company in Minnesota, where he operated a show truck. He worked one MATS at Louisville and met someone with Roll-Tite, a company that makes tarping systems for flatbed trailers.

“They wanted to do a show truck, too,” he says. At first Ward was the company’s only driver, helping work its booths at shows. Soon, Roll-Tite saw sales promise, and Ward went from a driver and account manager to national manager of sales. Four years later, he’s a vice president in charge of sales and marketing for the United States. “I went a long way in a big hurry,” he says.

Now the company has five trucks and takes three to the biggest shows (it exhibits at five or six events every year), and despite Ward’s new position, he still pilots a truck to a tradeshow. “The hardest part is the setup and breakdown of the booth,” he says. “Dallas can be difficult because of the marshalling yards and the ramp up.”

Ward is just as likely to be seen manning the booth as hauling it these days. At GATS last August, Ward wore his trucker hat delivering Roll-Tite’s display one day and his sales hat the next. He still likes trucking but prefers the competitiveness of sales. “I like all the people I meet,” he says.

For truckers who haul tradeshow goods and get to see the show, meeting people and finding entertainment are perks that go along with lighter loads and no-touch freight.

The shows are also an opportunity to see new and different things. Though Mississippi trucker Kreinbrook has gone to most of the big truck shows, his favorite trade event is the Fire Rescue International show in Denver. “It’s unique, and all that equipment is different from what we drive.”

Traveling Truck Show brings the event to truckers

Although it’s wound itself through half of the United States, America’s Traveling Truck Show is still on the road and headed to a stop near you. The show will make seven more stops at Petro Stopping Centers between now and mid-August:

July 5-7: Mebane, N.C.
July 11-13: Florence, S.C.
July 18-20: Atlanta
July 25-27: Bucksville, Ala.
Aug. 1-3: Jackson, Miss.
Aug. 8-10: Shreveport, La.
Aug. 15-17: Weatherford, Texas

Just like conventional truck shows, ATTS features new Class 8 trucks and engines, trailers and towing products, components and other products as well as music, entertainment and fun. Best of all, there’s always parking.

“America’s Traveling Truck Show is designed to bring the tradeshow to a trucker while they’re on the road,” says Robert Lake, vice president/group publisher of the Truck Stop Group at Randall-Reilly Publishing, the owner of ATTS and Truckers News. “While they’re at a Petro, they can walk through the show and see the exhibits and register to win the prizes we’re giving away. They can sit in a driver simulator or NASCAR car. We’re taking the show to them.”

Truckers who visit the show can win great prizes. The Thomas Wilson Group, for example, will be giving away a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. But you have to stop by their booth to sign up. Truckers who visit a Petro Stopping Center can also enter the Truckers Dream Package sweepstakes for a chance to win $5,000 in cash and dozens of other prizes. The winner will be announced at the last stop on the ATTS tour.

Great American Trucking Show grows again

Where can you get up close and personal with country music legends Aaron Tippin, Ronnie Milsap and Trace Adkins? Dallas, Aug. 24-26.

The Great American Trucking Show will host all three artists as well as more than 600 exhibitors and tens of thousands of truckers at the Dallas Convention Center.

“If you are in the industry and want to see first hand the latest and greatest that is offered, see country music concerts and enjoy all that Dallas has to offer, GATS is definitely the show to attend,” says Alan K. Sims, executive director of the trucking show. “GATS 2006 promises to be our biggest and best show.”

In addition to industry suppliers, truck and trailer manufacturers, GATS will host more than 100 carriers looking to recruit drivers – a must show for truckers looking for a new ride or for CDL holders looking for a job.

The show kicks off on Aug. 24 with free seminars on topics such as Fuel Management for Fleets and Owner-operators and Engine Changes in 2007. Country star Trace Adkins also will sign autographs at the show Aug. 24.

Aaron Tippin, who has six Top 10 singles, one Top 5 single, one No. 2 single, three No. 1 singles and sales of 5 million albums during his career, will perform Aug. 25. The singer has made his mark on the country music industry with his hard-edged twang and his themes of family values, patriotism and hard work.

Aaron’s career was launched when his debut single, “You’ve Got to Stand for Something,” reached the Top Ten in 1991 and became an anthem for a nation embroiled in the conflict of Desert Storm. Aaron quickly became a voice of patriotism, a badge he wears proudly and has carried with him throughout his career. A decade later, he cut the track, “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly,” immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and donated proceeds from the commercial single, which zoomed to No. 2 on the Billboard chart, to the Disaster Relief Fund of the Nashville Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“Country fans went out and bought the record to help other Americans who needed help at the time,” Aaron says. “That’s common of what real country fans are like.”

MobilDelvac is sponsoring Tippin.

Ronnie Milsap will perform Saturday night and is back by popular demand. Milsap, who has more than 40 No. 1 hits, six Grammys and more than 23 million records sold, performed at GATS 2004 to a sold-out crowd.

Born in Robbinsville, N.C., he was raised by his father and grandparents following his parents’ divorce. He was born blind from congenital glaucoma, and when he was 5, he began attending the Governor Moorhead School for the Blind. Milsap showed musical aptitude at an early age. The school stressed classical music training, but he preferred country, gospel and rhythm-and-blues.

He released his first single, “Total Disaster,” in 1963 at the age of 20. 1972 found him working regularly at Roger Miller’s King of the Road Club in Nashville, Tenn., and he signed with RCA Records in 1973. Milsap recorded for RCA until 1992. During that time he created five gold albums, one platinum album and one double platinum album. He also won six Grammy Awards and eight Country Music Association awards, including the coveted Entertainer of the Year Award.

The concert is sponsored by Volvo Trucks North America.

In addition to the concerts, attendees will be treated to a special celebration of Truck Driver Appreciation Week by the American Trucking Associations. They will also have free truck parking, thanks to Freightliner. The free on-site truck parking will again be available at Reunion Arena adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center. Additional parking will be available at Gilley’s, located on Lamar Blvd behind the Convention Center.

The free truck parking will include 24-hour security, restroom facilities, refreshments, and entertainment. A map and directions to the Reunion Arena Parking Lot, along with additional information is available at this site. For additional information, call 888-349-4287.

America’s Traveling Truck Show
Through mid-Aug.
multiple locations

Iowa 80 Truckers Jamboree
July 13-14
The Iowa 80 Truckstop, I-80, Exit 284., Walcott, Iowa

Expedite Expo
July 28-29
Roberts Convention Center, Wilmington, Ohio

National Truck Driving Championships
Aug. 15-19
New Orleans

The Great American Trucking Show
Aug. 24-26
Dallas Convention Center, Dallas

The International Truck Show
Sept. 29-Oct. 1
Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles

Truck Show Latino
Oct. 21-22
Fairplex in Pomona, Pomona, Calif.

Mid-America Trucking Show
March 23-25, 2007
Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.