TREAD Act, product liability issues top the agenda at NATM convention

WITH the TREAD Act about to affect them and economic uncertainties surrounding them, a record number of light-duty trailer manufacturers and associated companies gathered in Orlando, Florida, for the annual National Association of Trailer Manufacturers Convention February 19-24.

The early warning reporting requirements of the new law begin April 1. Under those provisions, many final-stage truck and trailer manufacturers will be required to tell the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about customer complaints and accidents involving their products every three months.

How this is done — and computer software designed to make the process less time-consuming — was one of the featured presentations at the convention.

And with a focus on product shortcomings, a presentation on how to prepare for product liability litigation was equally well attended. A detailed report on these two convention sessions can be found on the pages to follow.

In addition to these topics, NATM scheduled appearances by economist Delos Smith, marketing insights by one of the key members of the team that turned around Harley-Davidson Motor Company, and an informal “nuts and bolts” session to discuss miscellaneous issues of concern.

Attendance at the convention was at record levels — in excess of 600.

Included in Norm Helmke's state of the association address:

  • The association now has 625 active members.

  • NATM added 170 members last year.

  • Ninety eight members have been certified as compliant with the association's voluntary guidelines compliance program, and manufacturers continue to sign up for audits.

  • NATM will increase its efforts to promote the value of certified manufacturers to the marketplace.

“Many of the programs were just coming on line at last year's convention,” Helmke said. “The compliance program, the warning label, project and the owner's manual project have been fully implemented and are ongoing. We continue to look to ways to improve the services provided to members. We request input and feedback from all our members to help identify the need for new services or improvement in existing ones.

“We have worked hard to keep members informed of government regulations that impact our businesses. Our efforts to effect change and get some relief from the new NHTSA Early Warning Reporting requirements is a prime example of this. The response we have had from our members to our grass roots campaign has been unprecedented in the history of the association. While it is too early to tell what impact our campaign will have, we will continue to work to achieve a positive outcome. One thing you can be assured of is that we will not go quietly!”

The association elected three new members to its board of directors: Matt Arnold, Haulmark Industries; Andy Gehman, MGS Inc; and Larry McDonald, Lucky B Manufacturing. Retiring from the NATM board this year are: Brad Baker, Classic Manufacturing, (served 1997-2003); Ed Freel, KampCo Steel Products, (1993-2003); and Roland Gehman, MGS Inc, (1996-2003).

NATM officers and directors


Norm Helmke, Featherlite Inc
Vice President
Brad Henning, Kiefer Built Inc
Carl Maxey, Maxey Manufacturing
Past President
Jim Callaway, Big Tex Trailers


Matt Arnold, Haulmark Industries
Lynn Beal, Big Tex Trailer World Inc
Andy Gehman, MGS Inc
Ron Jackson, CM Trailers
Steve Kildow, Dexter Axle
Larry McDonald, Lucky B Manufacturing.
Jaime Miller, Valspar Corporation
Jerry Shipman, Sundowner Trailers Inc

TAGS: Trailers
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