NTEA Appealing to Wider Audience With New Expo Format Next Year

THE NTEA will be casting a much wider net for attendees and exhibitors when the association makes major changes to its annual tradeshow next year.

"T3-The Commercial Truck, Trailer, and Technology Expo" is the new name that reflects the association's new approach to changes in the truck equipment marketplace. The scope of the show will be expanded to include more light-truck accessory manufacturers, truck trailer manufacturers, and builders of such specialized vehicles as ambulances, fire and rescue vehicles, buses, and utility and rescue vehicles.

Attendees are expected to include trailer dealers, commercial truck fleets, municipalities, and utilities, in addition to the association's traditional truck equipment distributor base. The idea is for the show to cover the entire commercial truck and transportation industry. The association also plans to expand the show geographically, with initial emphasis placed on Mexico, Central, and South America.

The truck equipment distributor will still be the primary component of the show, Jim Carney, NTEA executive director, said at a special briefing session held during the NTEA convention. However, a changing market is affecting the way the show will be conducted. One of the biggest changes is the frequency of mergers in the truck equipment industry.

"The traditional show in which manufacturers exhibit to distributors attracts about 250 distributors each year. A Supershow attracts more-about 300," he said. "With the trends we see occurring in the market, especially the consolidation, it was going to be difficult to keep this show viable over the next five years.

"Without responding to these changes, the association would be left with no tradeshow. And it is the tradeshow that drives a great deal of the revenue of the association. Today we have a staff of 21 to provide services that we did not offer five years ago. Without the tradeshow, our staff would decline to about seven and dues would go up significantly."

Selling Out

Exhibitors heartily endorsed the changes. NTEA sold 92% of the available floorspace February 24, the first day that space went on sale. However, the question-and-answer session following formal presentations by Carney and NTEA President Steve Moore showed mixed feelings among attendees. Some questioned including truck trailers in the mix.

"About 55% of NTEA members handle trailers," Carney explained. "That is why they are bringing trailers into the show."

Others speculated that the new format would duplicate existing shows such as the Mid-America Trucking Show and the International Trucking Show.

"We aren't looking for the owner operator," Moore added. "We are looking for the commercial fleet operator."

T3 2000, the first NTEA show under the new format, will be held February 23-25 in St Louis. Unlike NTEA Supershows, which had been scheduled every three years, NTEA will hold T3 annually. The show will be held in Baltimore in 2001 and will take place in Orlando the following year.

Carney acknowledged that the show might be slightly ahead of its time.

"We are trying to position the show not for the industry today, but what the industry will be like five years from now," he said.

Changing Market

Based on an extensive survey that the association conducted last year, Carney identified several major changes affecting the truck equipment industry. Among them:

o Distribution channels are blurring.

o Chassis manufacturers are increasing their control over the supply and distribution of chassis.

o Local markets are consolidating and fragmenting simultaneously. Smaller distributors will find it more difficult to survive, but those serving the proper niches should thrive.

o Customers are demanding better service, quality, and accountability.

o The skilled labor pool is diminishing.

o The Internet and other new communication technologies are impacting how business is done and, in some cases, are threatening the traditional distribution channel.

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