Credit: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
The NATM Convention is returning to Las Vegas after a successful show in 2014.

NATM targeting record turnout

Jan. 5, 2016
With the convention and trade show returning to Las Vegas, various promotions and programs are attracting new attendees

THE National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) loves Las Vegas. And the feeling among its members apparently is mutual.

As of early November, over 200 already had registered for the NATM Convention & Trade show set for February 9-12 at South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa—which events director Allison Malmstrom called “unheard of.” With over three months remaining before the convention, Malmstrom and executive director Pam Trusdale expected to easily eclipse last year’s total of 230 in New Orleans.

“Our main goal for this convention is to really focus on attendance and getting more trailer manufacturers there,” Trusdale said. “That’s our top priority. We’ve come up with a lot of promotions and programs. Las Vegas is popular place for us. We usually have a good turnout. We had a good turnout last time at South Point. It’s a relatively new facility with a nice convention center and reasonable room rates. We’re just really focusing hard. We’re excited.”

One of the promotions involves a sliding scale of registration fees that rewards early commits. The registration fee is usually $350, but those who registered in September paid just $100, with $50 incremental increases each month after that.

Trusdale also wrote a personal letter to every member that hasn’t attended ever before or in the past five years, offering free registration and a free room for three nights.

“A lot of people have taken advantage of that,” Trusdale said. “We think we have a lot of people who haven’t been there in a long time or have never been to our convention. We want to show our appreciation to our buyers by getting as many new trailer manufacturers there as possible. We’d like to increase attendance by 50%.”

It was held on Wednesday in previous years, but has been split into two days and will start on Thursday and end on Friday.

Tom Romero

Tom Romero and Frank Drake kick if off at 8 am on Thursday, February 11 with “The SAE Standard and Trends for Pull-behind and Gooseneck Couplings.”

This seminar will review the SAE J684 and SAEJ2638 coupling standards, key definitions, trailer/coupling classifications, and current manufacturer product improvement trends to meet today’s requirements for pull-behind and gooseneck trailer couplings.

Romero is director of training and education for Cequent Performance Products. Romero’s background is in towing and trailering products, training and education for OEM manufacturers and suppliers/distributors, dealer/installer community, and consumers. Romero’s focus is divided between providing live training seminars and online e-learning content such as video and self-guided training sessions.

Frank Drake

Drake is director of engineering of trailer products for
Cequent Performance Products. Drake has been in the trailer industry for 19 years, has a mechanical engineering degree, and is a registered professional engineer in Wisconsin.

The SAE Committee update follows from 9:15-9:30 am, led by James Fait, director of engineering services for U-Haul International Inc. Fait will provide an overview of the progress made this year on the various trailer task forces. The Trailer Committee develops SAE standards and Recommended Practices, and Fait will share with participants how they can learn more about the work being completed and how they can actively participate in committee work.

The Trailer Committee develops and maintains SAE standards, Recommended Practices, and information reports applicable to trailers normally towed by conventional passenger cars, light-duty commercial vehicles, light trucks, and multi-purpose passenger vehicles.

Fait earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1977 (ASU) and was certified as a professional engineer (PE) in 1983. Fait, a 33-year U-Haul veteran, is a specialist in towable equipment research, testing and crash investigation techniques and training, develops test procedures and projects, and writes, reviews and updates product user instructions, the Safety Trailering Driver Education Program and other materials. Fait has also represented U-Haul International before legislative bodies, government agencies, and engineering associations.

Shawn Ryan

Session Two of the Technical Forum, “Towing Trends,” from 9:30-11 am, will be hosted by Shawn W Ryan, who has extensive experience integrating engineering, manufacturing, and studio creative design to develop vehicle architectures and vehicle programs for developed and emerging markets. Ryan possesses the ability to develop vehicles from a “blank piece of paper” to the first physical hardware build for validation using development tools such as 3D modeling and prototyping, virtual reality, and CAE analysis to minimize the need for hardware.
Ryan has a bachelor’s of science in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.  He started at GM in 1987 as a co-op student with Allison Transmission Division in Indianapolis. After graduation, he began with the advance engineering staff at the Warren Michigan Technical Center, working on active suspensions. From that time, Ryan held various vehicle integration positions that involved the Chevrolet Avalanche, Hummer H3, full-size trucks and SUVs.

His international experience includes working with Germany on the Opel Zafira Tourer and as the department head for Advance Vehicle Development South America, where during 2009 to 2012 the emerging market portfolios were completely rejuvenated. It was while in Brazil working on the International mid-size truck that the North American Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon program originated. Upon returning to the States, Ryan continued to work the program until its launch.

Technical Forum Session Three is on Friday from 11-11:45 am. “Early Warning Reporting (EWR) Responsibilities” will be presented by Bob Lawton, an attorney for K&L Gates.

Bob Lawton

Across the motor vehicle industry, recent years have seen a tremendous increase in the scrutiny of manufacturers’ compliance with federal regulations concerning recalls and safety defects. Hundreds of millions of dollars of fines have been levied on companies found to be non-compliant. As a service to its members, NATM has commissioned the development of a guide to assist light- and medium-duty trailer manufacturers in understanding their obligations in this arena and keys to compliance.

Lawton has been the lead author of the guide and will discuss the highlights of what manufacturers need to know in order to ensure they have correct processes in place to be compliant with these important regulations. 

“There’s been so much in the news recently about trailer manufacturers being caught under NHTSA’s scrutiny because of early warning reporting,” Trusdale said. “Specifically for 579.5, we’ve prepared a document so our members understand their EWR requirements and recall requirements. A lot of trailer manufacturers are under the misconception that if they make more than 5000 trailers, they don’t have to report anything. There are certain requirements of every trailer manufacturer, regardless of how many trailers they manufacture.”

Lawton has represented manufacturers, importers, and brand-name owners of motor vehicle equipment with respect to compliance with the reporting requirements under the TREAD Act and NHTSA regulations, including advice with respect to the EWR obligations of each. Lawton has also handled the safety recall obligations for several tire recalls, including reporting to NHTSA with respect to noncompliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards and the existence of a safety-related defect and assisting with the appropriate remedies for the defect.


Stephen Hauser

Workshop Session One is Wednesday from 10-11:30 am, with Stephen Hauser of Corporate Finance Associates presenting, “The Process of Ownership Transition.”

It’s designed to provide guidance and insight to owners as they prepare for and undertake a sale of their business. The presentation will reflect up-to-date trends in transaction volumes, valuation metrics, financing, and offer structures. 
Hauser will offer real-world examples of the most common and most critical challenges a selling owner must navigate through to achieve the desired economic and personal benefits.

In this session participants will learn:

• The key steps in both the exit planning and selling processes, and the experienced-based timeline to realize the end goal.

• The key target firm attributes acquirers look for, and how to present these in the best light.

• Preparing for the critical elements and stages of buyer due diligence.

• The primary valuations methods used in M&A, and how professionals interpret the data.

• How the private equity, corporate, and management buyer candidates likely will evaluate the deal.

Workshop Session Two, from 1:30-3 pm, features Michael Allen of The RAD Group presenting, “The Culture of Safety.”

Michael Allen

Culture plays a critical role in organizations’ safety performance, yet most of us have a hard time explaining in practical terms what culture is. This is one of the reasons why organizations struggle to change their safety culture. This talk starts by explaining safety culture in very practical terms, and then draws from research to provide a clear approach for positively changing the culture within an organization. Common “culture-change pitfalls” are discussed, and then four simple steps are provided, which leaders can use to shape their organizations’ safety cultures.

Workshop Session Three is on Thursday from 9:30-11 am.

Mike Gunnells, senior manager of business solutions for PPG Industries Inc, will present “Basics of LEAN and 5 S Principles.”

Mike Gunnells

​Gunnells, an MVP black belt consultant, began his career over 37 years ago in the collision-repair business as a repair and refinish technician and progressed to the management of collision centers, including large dealerships, and independent shops.

Gunnells has 18 years of experience as an I-CAR instructor for the state of Georgia and holds the following professional designations: AMI Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM), ASE Master Certified Collision Repair & Refinish Technician, ASE Certified Estimator, I-CAR Platinum, and Master’s Certified Collision Repair Manager (CCRM).
Gunnells contributes to the development and implementation of PPG’s Business Solutions programs and services.

Friday Night Gala

It features Mac King, who has been celebrated by Magic Magazine as the premiere comedy magician in the world today.

King recently appeared on Penn & Teller Fool Us and at the end of his act, Penn Jillette stated, “If you go on Twitter and say, ‘I’m coming to Las Vegas, besides Penn & Teller, what show should I see?’ the only answer anyone ever gets is Mac King.”

King performs two times a day at Harrah’s Las Vegas, a show that has been regarded as one of the top five shows in all of Vegas for the past 10 years.

Keynote speaker

Scott McKain is an internationally known authority who helps organizations create distinction in every phase of business and teaches how to deliver an “Ultimate Customer Experience.”

Scott McKain

He is the founder of a consulting and training company that explores the role of ultimate customer experiences in creating enhanced client retention and revenue, and is the author of three #1 business bestsellers, all teaching how to expand profits, increase sales, and engage customers.

McKain’s latest book, released by publisher McGraw-Hill and titled 7 Tenets of Taxi Terry, provides the specific steps for every employee to create and deliver ultimate customer experiences. McKain’s presentations benefit from three decades of experience, combined with his innate talent for articulating successful ideas.

McKain has spoken before and consulted for the world’s most influential corporations. He has presented his business strategies on platforms in all fifty states and seventeen countries, from Singapore to Sweden, from Mexico to Morocco, from the White House with the President in attendance, to conferences in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

He has been honored with induction into the “Professional Speakers Hall of Fame.” And he is a member of “Speakers Roundtable”—an elite, invitation-only group of 20 business speakers considered by many to be among the best in the world.

Take the guesswork out of buyer/seller networking by attending the convention’s newest networking event purposed to facilitate meaningful and quality connections for trailer manufacturer and supplier attendees.

This event, held on Wednesday at 3:15 pm, will allow attendees to pre-select the buyers/sellers they are interested in meeting based on customized matching parameters put together by NATM. 

At the event, participants receive a customized schedule of meetings which is based on their individual preferences.

The NATM customized schedule includes relevant information about each individual that participants are scheduled to meet with at the event. 

Attendance is limited to 100 participants—50 trailer manufacturers and 50 suppliers.

“It’s just as it sounds—kind of like speed dating,” Malmstrom said. “It is opportunity for 50 trailer manufacturers and 50 suppliers to pre-select people they’re interested in meeting. Maybe an enclosed trailer manufacturer is trying to find a window supplier or a seal supplier is looking to find a utility trailer manufacturer. We’re going to allow them an opportunity to meet and have some conversations before they actually get on the trade show floor Thursday and Friday.”

She said other associations have used it, and she was spurred to add it after an NATM member repeatedly requested it.

“I just thought it seemed like something that could provide value for our members,” she said. “So we thought it was worth a try to see what the reaction will be. Our whole mission is not only to provide education to our trailer manufacturers and suppliers, but we really just want to create opportunities for them to get new business leads or learn about new products. We thought it would be an interesting opportunity.”

Young Professionals Reception

On Tuesday from 7:30-8:30 pm, this event will be held for members 40 years old and younger. Attendees can learn more about the association and how to become more involved with NATM programs.


The tournament will be held from noon to 5 pm on Tuesday at Bear’s Best, a Jack Nicklaus design. The course has been voted “Best Places to Play” by Golf Digest and “Best Golf Course in Las Vegas” by the Las Vegas Review Journal. Nicklaus selected 18 holes from his more than 270 course designs worldwide to create one captivating round.

Transportation is provided to and from the hotel and course. Registration is $150 per registrant. ♦

Click here to print or download NTEA 2016 Convention Agenda

Click here to print or download NTEA 2016 Convention Exhibitors

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.