THE National Truck Equipment Association convention keeps getting bigger and better. The 36th annual convention, combined with the T3 2000 Commercial Truck, Trailer and Technology Expo, set records in size, attendance, exhibitors, and scope of educational sessions during its run from February 23-25 at America's Center in St Louis.
The numbers: 5,560 attendees, 390 truck, truck-body equipment, and trailer suppliers occupying a sold-out exhibition hall with 147,100 net sq ft, displays by 11 of the world's leading commercial truck chassis manufacturers, and more than 40 industry-specific educational sessions. It was the NTEA's largest gathering of Class 1 through 8 commercial truck, trailer and equipment manufacturers, distributors, truck dealers, and buyers.
"Turnout was fantastic," executive director Jim Carney said. "Since T3 was a brand-new show, it would be understandable if people weren't quite sure what to expect. But attendance was strong. Participants learned a lot about the industry, where it's going, and the developments that are taking it there. The show really gave participants everything they need to make better-informed buying decisions."
This was the first NTEA show to feature an international pavilion. In addition to the educational sessions on sales, shop/production, management and fleet administration, three intensive pre-convention workshops were offered.
On a light note, former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann delivered a passionate and energetic keynote address at the President's Breakfast. In "A Game Plan for the 21st Century," ESPN's NFL analyst stressed the need to be adaptable and geared toward the ever-changing marketplace, describing the transition he had to make after suffering a career-ending broken leg.
In his State of the Association address, outgoing president Dean Wartenbee said the NTEA is "following a well-charted course," with membership at an all-time high of 1,610 companies-and expected to increase to 1,650 by the end of the fiscal year on April 30.
He said strength in 1999 was bolstered by the initiation of Dialogue 2000, designed to gather member feedback for the NTEA's Long-Range Plan; the introduction of the association's second web site, T3expo.net, last September; the participation of over 500 people in Truck Equipment College courses in 25 cities; the creation of a market data and industry research department; and the partnering with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence to develop the industry's first voluntary technician certification, with over 700 taking the E1 test to become certified specialists in truck equipment installation and repair.
Wartenbee said the NTEA played a key advocacy role on behalf of the industry by lobbying for the creation of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration negotiated rulemaking committee, which is working to reform the manner in which altered, intermediate- and final-stage manufacturers certify vehicles to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Wartenbee said serving its members is the NTEA's "core business --- the very purpose of your association's existence. As members, you are the NTEA's most important asset."
Where Does the NTEA Go From Here? Nearly 90% of the available exhibitor space has been sold for T3 2001, held in conjunction with the 37th annual convention in Baltimore March 1-3. Exhibitor space will be boosted by an estimated 15%.
"T3's ability to grow is going to be tied to its capacity to adapt to the marketplace and economic conditions that are increasingly more international in scope," said Peter Jones, NTEA first vice-president and convention chairman for T3 2001. "One of our goals next year is to continue to enhance our global relevance, especially in the Mexican and South American markets."