Earlier this year, the RCA Dome hosted two National Football League playoff games. During those games, the playing field looked almost empty, at least when viewed from the upper reaches of the stands. To fans sitting in the nosebleed section, the 22 football players down there appeared as specs on an otherwise empty 56,600 square feet of playing surface.
But the stands surrounding the playing field were filled to a capacity with screaming fans. And most fans left happy as the hometown Colts won both games.
The scene was reversed a few weeks later when the RCA Dome hosted the National Truck Equipment Association's Work Truck Show. This time it was the field that was full, and the stands were empty.
High above the playing surface, a lone photographer climbed past sections and rows of empty seats to take the photo that appears on the cover of this month's issue — a photo of a football field full of truck equipment. The view was striking, and so was the silence. No screaming fans. Just dozens of quiet conversations that could not quite be heard in the upper levels of the stadium.
More striking, however, was the contrast between the last Work Truck Show and NTEA's first one.
Twenty-five years ago, NTEA ventured into the tradeshow business in a big way. Previously, exhibitors were limited to 10' × 10' booths, and the entire event fit comfortably inside a hotel ballroom.
But some industry leaders were convinced that the truck equipment business was big enough and important enough to support a much larger exhibition. Supershow I was formed, and it filled the football field of the Louisiana Superdome.
The cover of this month's issue bears a striking resemblance to the one Trailer/Body Builders ran 25 years ago. Dome stadium. Empty stands. Truck equipment all over the place. The same blue carpet in the aisles.
But there is one big difference. In 1982, the show filled the entire field — and everyone was amazed. Twenty five years later, the show again filled the playing surface of a domed stadium. But this time these exhibits were only what spilled over from a much larger exhibit center next door. And if there was any amazement, it was expressed this way: “Hey, look. There's stuff in the stadium, too.”
Twenty-five years ago, taking a cover photograph of Supershow I was easy. Walk up the ramp of the mezzanine level and shoot. The entire tradeshow was right there in front of the camera.
That's no longer the case. We no longer can convey to you the scope of The Work Truck Show with a single picture. This year's event filled the nooks and crannies of the Indianapolis Convention Center. Only a fraction of the exhibits are visible from any one vantage point.
And our coverage of the show has had to change as well. The first show of this type had 142 exhibitors, and Trailer/Body Builders showed you what virtually every exhibitor had to sell. As much as we would like to that this year, the show has outgrown that type of coverage.
The most recent Work Truck Show had 500 exhibitors. We have had to restrict our coverage to three major product areas: truck bodies, snow and ice control equipment, and truck chassis.
Events like The Work Truck Show are the result of the hard work of a lot of people. They also are evidence of the growing importance of the truck equipment industry in general.
A few chassis manufacturers were there when NTEA rolled out its first full-scale truck equipment show in 1982, but those early events were never a venue for high-profile introductions of new trucks. By contrast, eight chassis manufacturers waited until this year's Work Truck Show to unveil new models.
Perhaps more significantly has been the growing cooperation between those who start the truck manufacturing process and the industry that completes them. A good example: Paul Schenck's story on Page 50 which describes how General Motors, Supreme Corp, and others in our industry teamed up to provide truck customers with a chassis-based replacement for the Astro van.
The industry has grown a lot since Supershow I. It has become more professional and more widely recognized. The visionaries from 25 years ago proved correct. This is a big industry, one that provides a vital service. And we will need to continue doing the things that got our industry important in the first place — providing a valuable service and finding ways to deliver that service more effectively.
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