Many of the more than 800 registered attendees gather for a cocktail reception that preceded the NTDA awards dinner.

NTDA convention sets records

Dec. 10, 2019
NTDA 2019 Convention coverage

The National Trailer Dealers Association (NTDA) hosted its largest-ever convention last month, boasting 820 attendees at The Breakers in Palm Beach, FL. The association is also on par to hit a major milestone of 1,000 members heading into 2020. 

“The NTDA has been blessed by the incredible support of its members, sponsors, training partners and a progressively minded board of directors taking the organization to the next level,” said NTDA President Gwendolyn Brown. “As a result, the organization has experienced continuous growth since 2010.”

NTDA 2018–2019 Chairman of the Board John Princing, president of Scientific Brake & Equipment in Saginaw, MI, kicked off the Convention General Session and Keynote Presentations with a State of the Association address.

“First, I am excited to report that our membership is at an all-time high today with nearly 1,000 members,” said Princing. “The NTDA is financially stable and growing. Our goal is to build and strengthen the association today and in the future, and to provide exceptional services and programs that enhance member viability and profitability.”

Princing also touched on the viability of member companies and the economy.

“The record expansion that is now going into its 125th month cannot go on for forever. While it doesn’t look like we are heading into a recession, there are certainly indicators that our industry is headed for a slowdown over the course of the next year or two,” he said. “This is an important time to cut costs and focus on what the industry will look like in a few years, not just what is happening in the next quarter.”

FTR Chairman & CEO Eric Starks then delivered an industry economic overview and detailed what trailer dealers can expect in 2020 and beyond, based on the freight market and fleet productivity.

“There’s a little bit of downside pressure as we move into 2020, but not significant pressure,” Starks said. “By and large, the numbers are still at the high end of where [trailer shipments] traditionally have been. All in all, next year is going to be a good year, historically speaking. 

“There’s no doubt you’re going to see softening from where you are today, but the question is: Do we see something that’s noticeably worse? At the moment, the risk of that is relatively low. The timeframe you need to be looking at is as we move into Q1 and Q2—that’s where the biggest risk starts to hit.”

Annual production will finish 2019 at 326,000 trailers, up from 317,200 last year. FTR forecasts production to be 275,000 trailers in 2020; 260,000 in 2021; 265,000 in 2022; and to rebound to 280,000 in 2023.

Quarterly through 2020, FTR reports the second quarter this year set the record, with 88,319 trailers built. The Q3 estimate is a still-strong 81,320 before declining to 71,900 in Q4. For next year, Q1 slips slightly to 71,100 trailers built; Q2 is forecast to be 73,200; Q3 to be 67,300; and Q4 will fall to 63,400.

“These are all really, really good numbers,” Starks said. “The problem was 2018 was so crazy that it has disrupted how we view the market. Right now we’re still on offense—we’re not playing defense—but the game is getting tighter.”

The convention also featured a riveting and poignant keynote address by Keni Thomas of Black Hawk Down Fame; and Rajiv Lal, Ph.D., Sr. Professor of Retailing at Harvard Business School, discussed the Impact of Driverless Vehicles and Related Technologies.

Additionally, Dale Martens, NTDA past chairman and executive vice president—trailer sales for American Trailer & Storage in Kansas City, MO, moderated a fleet panel consisting of public and private fleet CEOs. 

And nearly 120 members hosted exhibits. Several exhibitors, including Hendrickson and Meritor, launched new product and service offerings.

Convention guests had the opportunity to enjoy cabanas at The Breakers and to cruise the intercoastal waterways on a catamaran cruise. The Annual Golf Tournament & Scholarship Fundraiser was held at The Breakers’ Ocean and Rees Jones’ Courses. The event raised $900 toward the NTDA’s Scholarship Fund. The NTDA has awarded more than $170,000 in scholarships to 52 children of NTDA member employees since 1998. Attendees also enjoyed networking events that included a Welcome Reception, breakfast, luncheon and an Awards Dinner as well as cocktail receptions.

The week was rounded out with retiring board members, membership ambassadors and sponsors being recognized at an awards dinner. Mike Shuemake, President of Central Valley Trailer Repair (Fresno, CA), was installed as the 30th Chairman of the NTDA Board of Directors. Shuemake previously served as Chairman from 2014–2015. Shuemake honored Princing with an award for his service and dedication and announced that the Association made a $1,000 donation to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Princing’s name.

“This industry is a great place to build and grow a business,” Princing said at the dinner. “The NTDA provides invaluable networking opportunities for all our nearly 1,000 members. The association is a place where dealers and suppliers become partners, friends, consultants, and deal makers. The industry needs the NTDA and the NTDA needs all the support that all of you here give.

“Every year the NTDA board works on and solves challenges much like you all face with your own companies. Economic conditions, politics, government regulations, rapidly changing technology, the increasing durability of the durable goods that our industry produces, and the financial well-being of the Association and that of our members are just some of the challenges the board has faced during my tenure.”

Brown presented the President’s Award of Excellence to Martens for his efforts in recruiting the most members between September 2018 and September 2019. Brown also honored Ray Anderson, publisher of Trailer/Body BUILDERS magazine and other industry publications, with the NTDA Hall of Commitment Award for volunteerism and ongoing support of the association. 

The NTDA will host its 30th Annual Convention at Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa, Indian Wells, CA, from Oct. 14–16, 2020. The 31st Annual Convention will take place at Fairmont Chateau Whistler, in Whistler, BC, Oct. 6–8, 2021.