Joseph Haubert and the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau
The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) is taking its Convention & Trade Show back to Fort Worth.

NATM kicks up its boots

Jan. 5, 2018
30th anniversary of its founding will be celebrated as Convention & Trade Show visits Fort Worth for first time since 2012

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “You’re not 30. You’re three tens.”

The idea is that as you age, you start to show embarrassing tell-tale physical signs. But with some quirky math, you are suddenly younger.

The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) doesn’t have to do this, because as it celebrates its 30th birthday with the 2018 Convention & Trade Show in Fort Worth, Texas, it has never looked better.

It was founded by four trailer manufacturers who came together primarily because they were interested in getting group product liability insurance rates. Over time, they realized that they were facing the same issues and struggles, so they decided to expand their vision for what the organization would look like.

They started an annual convention, which began with one room with tables where vendors could show off products to trailer manufacturers. Then they added a newsletter, which later became a magazine.

The growth rate was truly jump-started in 1998, when Pam Trusdale took over as executive director.

“Pam is responsible for so much that has happened, along with a supportive board,” said Kendra Ansley, who earlier this year took over as NATM’s executive director as Trusdale moved into a role as consultant.

“She had a vision that this organization could be really great. In 1998, she tripled the size of the convention and upped what it was. She started adding educational programming. In 2002, NATM began a compliance program, which was not mandatory. She started recruiting people to participate and was hoping to grow to a point where it could be a mandatory requirement, which it did in 2012.”

In 2008, NATM started seeing that a lot of regulations surrounding motor vehicles were being formulated without trailers in mind, especially medium-duty trailers. The organization decided it needed to have a seat at the table, so it hired K&L Gates as a government representative to support NATM and be its eyes and ears in DC and help build relationships with regulators and federal agencies.

“Today, those relationships are going strong,” Ansley said. “We have really great working relationship with NHTSA and are able to talk with them about issues they see in the industry and issues our members are having in meeting federal regulations. So we’re ensuring that our members are able to do what they need to do and NHTSA has a clear view of what those members are trying to do.”

NATM will celebrate that rich history and explosive growth as it returns to Fort Worth for the first time since 2012.

“It is quite a milestone,” Ansley said of the 30th anniversary. “I think it’s pretty incredible. It started off with a small organization with a limited vision of what they thought the association would do. Since that time, it has just grown by leaps and bounds, year after year. What we’ve been able to do for the industry and our members is pretty incredible.”

The Convention & Trade Show, set for February 21-23 at the Fort Worth Convention Center, was held in Orlando in 2017 for the first time in 10 years, and resulted in total show attendance of 1029, with 269 booth spaces, 303 trailer manufacturer employees in attendance, 197 companies exhibiting and another 15 on the waiting list.

The attendance record is 1392 attendees—which NATM reached in 2008, just before the recession really hit the industry. Ansley is shooting for 1100 this year, and said there will be at least 283 booths.

“We’re all very excited to go back to Fort Worth,” she said. “The Show has grown lot since 2012, the last time we were there, so we’re all excited to see what it looks like now.

“Texas is one of the larger membership regions. We’ve got a ton of members in Texas, and it’s a huge trailer manufacturing state—second only to Indiana. We have tons of people nearby and have a lot of pull. We’re able to touch a lot of people locally. We tend to pull in a few more people because they are around there. And Fort Worth is a great location. It’s a laid-back, friendly environment, and the convention center has a perfect amount of space. There’s so much to do and see around the convention center, so it makes for a good event for attendees to be at.”

New for this year: a lunch with the exhibitors. This event will be on Thursday, February 22, and will allow the trade show to open two hours earlier. Members will receive vouchers to use at the built-in concession stands at the convention center. This event is sponsored by PPG and allows attendees to take their lunch to go while getting a jump start visiting vendors on the floor. This new event will allow trailer manufacturers to stay and walk the trade show floor during lunch, as well as offer exhibitors easily accessible lunch options without traveling far from their booths.

Technical Forum

Bill Pharmer and Robert Tessier of AirGas Inc kick if off on Wednesday, February 21, from 9:30-11 am with “Unlocking the Hidden Costs of Welding.” They will present a methodology that deals with the relationship between weld process efficiency and consumable usage. Companies have found that they can save 20% or more of their operating costs and improve quality, without any capital investment, using this comparative process.

From 1:30-3 pm, Jim Hutchison and Bernardo Duran of AZZ Metal Coatings will present “Coating Methods for Corrosion Protection.” This presentation will cover the causes and effects of corrosion, outcomes, and corrosion performance improvement provided by powder coating and hot-dip galvanizing processes. AZZ Metal Coatings will explain both processes and show a video of steel being hot-dip galvanized.

On Thursday, February 22, from 8-8:45 am, James Fait and Marco Garcia of U-Haul will give the “SAE Update: Trailer Committee & Task Force Status.” This presentation will overview the structure of the SAE Trailer Committee, and the five subordinate Task Force Committees, and the standards that each are responsible for, as well as a status report of current work in progress.

From 8:45-9:15, NATM technical director Colin Holthaus will present “Emerging Trends in Trailering.” Holthaus will update members on current trends involving motor vehicle accident statistics, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, autonomous vehicles, advanced towing features in automobiles, aftermarket trailering monitoring systems, the “smart trailer,” camera systems, tire pressure monitoring systems, heat sensors, trailer cell phone apps, connectors and much more.

From 9:30-11 am, Tobin Goode and Bill Bushman of Titan Bonding & Sealing Solutions will present “Building Better Bonded Trailers: Going Beyond the Right Adhesive to Achieve Exceptional Results.” Most trailer manufacturing plants were set up to build enclosed trailers using screws and fasteners, not for bonding. Bonded enclosed trailers look great and should be the standard build process in the industry. They should be more durable, eliminate leaks, enhance production throughput, and should cost less overall to build. So why aren’t they? Because seams pop in-line, in staging areas, in transit, on dealer lots, and at customers. Titan’s presentation breaks down the hard truths and provides a production plan and process that delivers long-term durable bonded trailers, increased throughput, more production capacity without adding personnel, happy dealers and repeat customers. It will also introduce some new bonding concepts you’ll want to see.

On Friday, February 23, from 12:30-1:30 pm, the NATM’s compliance staff will answer questions and provide a Technical Update.

“It’s a chance to interact with our technical staff and learn about what our technical committees are doing, what issues the technical staff is facing, and what we see going forward,” Ansley said. “This year, we added a technology committee to the association, and its entire function is to bring together trailer manufacturers and tow vehicle manufacturers and suppliers to talk about changing technology in the industry and how trailers will keep pace with what they’re doing on the car and truck side. How will they start fitting in vehicle-to-vehicle communication?”


Workshop Session One, on Wednesday, February 21, from 9:30-11 am, features leaders from RSM US LLP for “Increasing Profitability for Trailer Manufacturers,” an informative session that will address current tax and technology topics that are affecting trailer manufacturers today. This session will provide insights on available tax credits and incentives as well as tax reform impacts and potential advantages for businesses.

Workshop Session Two, from 1:30–3 pm, features Dennis Potter of K&L Gates. The government affairs analyst will provide an update on NATM’s work in Washington, DC, Congressional activities, and federal agency efforts. Plus, a recap of past activities and a look ahead at what to expect in 2018.

Workshop Session Three is on Thursday,

February 22, from 9:30-11 am. Tracey Goold of Marsh & McLennan Agency will present “Practical Recruiting & Retention Strategies.” We can all do research on benchmark data that improves recruiting and retention, but how does that actually fit in to your specific company, culture, and business plan? We know that compensation and benefits are important but not everything. Also, increasing compensation and/or benefits is not always practical. Join an engaging discussion about practical tips that will make a difference in how you recruit and retain your star players, including two to five action items you can implement as soon as you return from the convention

Speed Networking

On Wednesday, February 21, from 3-4:15 pm, attend the networking event that was started last year to facilitate meaningful and quality connections for trailer manufacturer and supplier attendees.

Speed Networking maximizes your time at the NATM Convention by making beneficial new connections with like-minded professionals.

Cargo trailer manufacturers looking for a lighting manufacturer? Marine axle suppliers looking for boat trailer manufacturers? This event allows participants to pre-select the OEMs or vendors they are interested in meeting.

Once the participant is registered, they will create a matching profile with the preference of individuals they want to meet. This process only takes a few moments and is required to confirm participation. Upon arriving at the event, participants will receive a schedule and seat assignments for their fast rounds of conversation with someone that best matches the criteria selected in their matching profile. A Speed Networking moderator will be there to guide participants through the event and to provide further details to help you make the most of your conversations.

Keynote speaker

On Wednesday, February 21, from 12:15 to 1:15 pm, Jeff Havens will give the keynote address.

Over the past decade, Havens, president of the Jeff Havens Company, has become one of the most in-demand presenters in North America. His ability to deliver high-quality, extensively researched education in an entertaining way has earned him dozens of repeat clients, all of whom appreciate his insistence that we’ll all improve better and faster if we actually enjoy the learning process. By combining the content of the traditional presentation with the entertainment value of a comedy show, Havens has found enthusiastic audiences in government, academia, small businesses, and several Fortune 50 companies, all while still being one of the youngest members of the professional speaking circuit.

He firmly believes that making learning fun is the quickest, cheapest, and most effective way to create a culture where people are eager to continually

His topic is “Us Versus Them.”

If you’ve listened to any other discussion about generational issues at work, then you’ve undoubtedly been told there are four distinct generations operating side-by- side in today’s working world. You’ve then been told the differences between those four generations, and then you’ve been told (although probably not in these exact words) that you need to just deal with all these different people, because they’re not going away and they’re not going to change how they operate. If that advice suits you, fantastic.

However, if you’ve ever been frustrated by how impossible it seems to employ four different strategies to manage four distinct generations, and if you’ve ever felt like you’re the only one who’s being asked to make any changes, then this keynote is exactly what you need. Because it turns out that there really aren’t four generations.

You’ll learn a simpler way of looking at your own generational picture, and you’ll also learn how to understand, recognize, and resolve every generational issue facing today’s workforce. That’s no exaggeration; by the end of the keynote, you and your colleagues will walk away with all the knowledge you’ll need to address 100% of the generational issues you’ll face for the rest of your career. Other generational presentations focus on what people want, but this one will tell you why everyone wants the different things they do. It’s an important distinction, and it will make implementing new solutions easier than you ever thought possible.

Partial list of takeaways:

• Learn to replace the complicated four-generation model with a workable dichotomy between older, more experienced workers and their younger, less experienced counterparts.

• Understand the key cultural, technological, and social changes that have conspired to create a disconnect between team members from these two generations.

• Walk away with several immediately applicable strategies to address and eliminate problems caused by the disconnect mentioned above.

• Inspire a healthier, more robust work ethic in your younger employees (and your older ones, too).

• Inspire a healthier, more robust attitude toward change in your older employees (and your younger ones, too).

Young Professionals Reception

Held on Tuesday, February 20, from 7-8 pm, this event is 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 feature a noon shotgun start on February 20 at The Golf Club Fossil Creek in Fort Worth.

Etched into 1150 acres of rolling hills by the legendary Arnold Palmer, The Golf Club Fossil Creek’s remarkable championship golf course serves as the centerpiece to a spectacular resort golf property that offers opportunities for playing, competing, and socializing.

Named in 1988 as one of the best new resort golf courses in America, The Golf Club Fossil Creek continues to re-define the daily fee golf experience in the Southwest. It is one of the last courses personally designed by The King himself—Palmer, who died in 2016.

It has been titled “The #1 Most Underrated Golf Club,” one of the top five renovated clubs, and the fifth-best overall golf club in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Fossil Creek snakes its way through several holes on the course. Water hazards are made more difficult with downward slopes that draw balls in and strategically placed sand traps.

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.