Although this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) did not seem to have very many significant new offerings for the trucking industry, the entire event was certainly fueled by pride. As trucking, along with the economy, continues to slowly get better, there was a lot of pride in the rigs, products and services found in every corner of the show – which seems to be reflective of the entire industry. Held on March 26-28 at the huge Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville, Kentucky, this 44th annual event was, in a word, awesome.
With 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space, over 81,000 attendees from all 50 states and 74 countries, 1,064 exhibitors from 43 states and 14 countries and 224 media attendees, MATS 2015 was another record-breaking event for the heavy-duty trucking industry. In addition to an all-time record of attendees, the show also set a new record for average exhibit space per exhibitor and sold-out of space faster than they have in the past 15 years. Just as important as these show statistics, the sentiment on the show floor was overwhelmingly positive, with many exhibitors sharing great stories of orders written and attendees conveying their astonishment at the sheer size and number of exhibits at the event. This marks another incredible year for MATS, and once again solidifies the importance of this event as the official kick-off of the show season.
We flew into Louisville on the Tuesday before the show, and, after dealing with multiple travel issues, we were greeted with amazing weather – it was sunny and in the 70s – and Wednesday was pretty much the same, as we spent the day taking pictures outside and setting up our booth inside, in the North Wing. That night, we also helped the truck show crew take their night shots of the trucks, and, thankfully, it was not freezing cold like last year. Unfortunately, Thursday’s weather was not so good – in fact, it rained all day and was cold. It was not a good day to be judging show trucks outside or taking pictures, but it was a good day to walk the show inside, and see what MATS 2015 had to offer.
Although there were a few new trucks announced and there were a lot of new products promising “more efficiency” in every form, we were slightly underwhelmed in regards to the new product unveilings. Western Star debuted their new and “edgy” 5700XE tractor, which is a hand-built truck that combines the classic style and toughness of a Western Star with innovative aerodynamic components, but it was not that exciting. Kenworth introduced their ICON 900, a limited production truck recognizing the heritage of the W900L, which was nice, but it is really just a dressed-up W900L – nothing really new here. There were a lot of high-tech gadgets and such, with the most popular new “thing” being dash cams (Cobra Electronics had a nice offering of these, as did a few others).
Probably the most talked about booth was the Freightliner booth – where they had just unveiled their SuperTruck. Responding to a challenge set forth by the U.S. Department of Energy back in 2009, which urged manufacturers to push the envelope and create a highly-efficient truck that was at least 50% more efficient than the best offering available in 2009, Freightliner spent several years (and a bunch of money) to create a concept rig that was able to achieve 12.2 mpg and a 115% increase in efficiency. The SuperTruck’s striking but weird looks sparked a lot of talk, both positive and negative, but one thing was for sure – people were talking about the SuperTruck and taking a lot of pictures.
After the show ended on Thursday, we at 10-4 Magazine headed to the Texas Roadhouse with about 16 of our friends and had a great dinner out. But, before we knew it, it was Friday morning and we were back at it in our booth, handing out thousands of free posters and magazines, as well as selling a few of our Duel-themed t-shirts. The rain had stopped, for the most part, but it was really cold. In fact, throughout the day, people were coming inside and telling us that there were light snow flurries blowing around outside. Nothing was sticking to the ground, but you get the idea – it was gray outside and temps were in the low 30s.
Friday night, after the show had closed for the day, Mobil Delvac sponsored a free concert for CDL holders in Freedom Hall featuring southern rock icons The Marshall Tucker Band. Skipping the concert, we instead opted to take another group of our friends and booth helpers out to dinner at our favorite Mexican place in Louisville – Los Aztecas.
Helping us out in our booth, as always, were our friends from Courtland, Minnesota – Jim and Marion Stolz. Marion has been our “booth boss” for the past several years now, and she runs a tight ship. We couldn’t do it without their help. We also had a few extra people show up to help us, including Josh Rietveld and his fiancé Renee, Jed DeBardeleben and his wife Shelley, and Frank Strohmyer, who also helped us out with pictures. Thanks also go out to Ciara Sleeth, Kim Grimm, Heather Hogeland and Art Czajkowski for their help. Special thanks go out to Fernando and the entire Stay Loaded crew for bringing all of our stuff to the show for us from California!
Whenever we were in the booth, we had the pleasure of looking straight at a life-sized cutout of Pete Thomas, who was NBC’s most successful “Biggest Loser” ever, without a shirt on, at his heaviest weight. It was not a very pretty sight! Thankfully, the real Pete Thomas, who is fit and trim now, was there as a spokesman for Pilot Flying J, wearing a wireless headset and walking around their booth (which was directly across the aisle from ours), inspiring and encouraging drivers and other passers-by to take control of their life and start making healthier decisions. And, as it turned out, the emcee for the PKY Truck Beauty Championship awards ceremony on Saturday morning was forced to cancel at the last minute, so Pete was thrust into the position – and he did a great job! At under an hour, it was the quickest awards presentation ever!!
And, speaking of the awards, there were a lot of big winners this year that had never even brought a truck to Louisville, along with a few veterans who have won their share of “big iron” at MATS, too. The big “Best of Show” trophies went to: Mike Horst and his white and red 2006 Pete 379 (Working Bobtail, the Jake Eilen “Pride in Your Ride” award, and three other trophies); Brad Caton of Eilen & Sons Trucking and his white, blue, black and orange 2014 Pete 389 and 2013 Mac Tri-Axle Dump (Best Working Combo and five other trophies); Todd Roccapriore and his blue and black “Disorderly Conduct” 1999 Pete 379 (Best Limited Mileage Bobtail, People’s Choice and four other trophies); Josh Reed of Lanita Specialized and his black and red 2015 Kenworth W900L and 2015 Mac flatbed (Best Limited Mileage Combo); and Brian Davis of Davis Bros. and his blue and black “Superfreak” 2005 Pete 379 and 2012 Wilson (Best Limited Mileage Dump Combo and two other trophies).
Other winners included our March 2015 cover truck, Phil Miller’s cream and brown 2010 Pete 389 and 2015 Wilson livestock trailer, who came all the way from Nevada and took (3) 1st place awards and (2) 2nds (he almost won the Best of Show Working Combo award); Chris Kikelhan of Sundance Transport and his “Unreal” all-original brown and gold 1984 Pete 359 with only 608 actual miles on it, which took home 1st place in the Antique class; Dan Brubaker of Brubaker Transport and his “All In” lime green 2014 Peterbilt 389, which earned (2) 1st place trophies, (1) 2nd and (1) 3rd; and Cliff King and his new 2014 Peterbilt 386 with a 120-inch ICT sleeper featuring an external slide-out BBQ and 2006 Wabash van, which took home Firestone’s “Most Technologically Advanced Cab” award.
A few other trucks that were lookin’ good and took home some nice awards included James Davis of Medford, OR (our June 2008 cover truck) and his orange and black 1993 Pete 379 and 2006 Mac flatbed, which got a 3rd place; Henry Lopez of A.J. Lopez Trucking and his two-tone green 2014 Pete 389 and 2014 Travis end dump, which got a 5th place; Kevin Halvac’s recently rebuilt “Unconventional” brown and gold 1988 Kenworth K100A, which got a 3rd place; Harold Demaree and his metallic green 1991 Ford CLT9000 and 2013 Utility dry van, which earned a 2nd place; Bill Warner Jr. and his cream and black 1979 Peterbilt 352H cabover and 2010 Mac dump, which got a 2nd place; and Ryan Van Haitsma of V-Max Transportation and his white and maroon 1995 Kenworth W900 and matching 2016 Utility dry van, which earned no trophies, but was still lookin’ really large.
Back in November of 2014, Peterbilt began offering a special edition “Pride & Class” Model 389 which comes with a customized, show-ready look, right from the factory. Fitted with a special louvered grill, special polished hood air intakes, bright metal front fenders, extra polished pieces, special badging and some interior upgrades, there were at least six or seven of these trucks out on the show lot. The one that stood out the most for us, and the judges, apparently, was the “It Is What It Is” two-tone gray 2015 Peterbilt 389 owned by JD Hawthorne of C & J Trucking, which took home (2) 1st place awards.
At the end of the awards ceremony on Saturday morning, like last year, a beautiful, full-color, 120-page “Championship Report” was handed out to anyone who wanted one for free. This amazing publication, which features several pictures of every truck in the show and a listing of what exactly they won, was created in just the few days after the show opened. Put together entirely by Lindsay Anhalt, with photos from Cheri Kimball and a few others, and some extra help from Jona Rebillard and Bud Farquhar, this report is a terrific keepsake from the show – especially if your truck is in it!
And before we knew it, the show was over, again. Time sure does fly by in Louisville. In the end, we gave away every magazine and poster we brought, took a record amount of subscriptions, and sold all but 11 of our shirts. It was a good show. By the time we left on Monday afternoon, the temperatures were back up in the high 60s and still climbing. Checking the temps the next day after we got home, it was back into the 70s again. Very strange – it started as sunny and in the 70s, dropped to the 30s within two days and then rained, dropped into the 20s and snowed a bit, and then climbed back into sunny and in the 70s, all within a week. How on earth do you pack for weather like that? Next year we might need to bring a few extra bags, just to be safe!
With many exhibitor and media events, live demos, product unveils, seminars, and unmatched networking opportunities, MATS again proved to be the best opportunity in the industry to research the latest in heavy-duty. Overall, the attendee and exhibitor response echoed the overwhelming sentiment that no other show offers more under one roof than the Mid-America Trucking Show. By all measures, the 2015 MATS was an extremely successful event for everyone involved. Show management is already talking about next year, and vows to (somehow) make it an even bigger and better in 2016. We and the entire industry are looking forward to next year, so please mark your calendars for March 31 through April 2, 2016. See you there! And the winners for 2015 were:
WORKING BOBTAIL: 1st Dan Brubaker, 2014 Peterbilt 389; 2nd Mike Horst, 2006 Peterbilt 379; 3rd David Foster, 2005 Kenworth W900L.
WORKING COMBO: 1st Brad Caton, 2014 Pete 389 & 2013 Mac Tri-Axle Dump; 2nd Phil Miller, 2010 Peterbilt 389 & 2015 Wilson Livestock trailer; 3rd Nicholas Denaples, 2010 Kenworth W900L & 2014 East Step Deck.
WORKING COMBO (COMPANY OWNED): 1st Michael Powers, 2013 Kenworth W900 & 2015 Reitnour; 2nd Zac Pletcher, 2012 Kenworth T800 & 2013 Mac Flatbed; 3rd Mike Vanness, 2015 Peterbilt 579 & 2015 Walker Tanker.
NEW TRUCK (BOBTAIL): 1st JD Hawthorne, 2015 Peterbilt 389; 2nd Chad Smith, 2014 Pete 389; 3rd Terry Sturby, 2015 Peterbilt 389.
FIRST SHOW (BOBTAIL): 1st Charles Shaffer, 2014 Pete 389; 2nd David Corley, 2004 Peterbilt 379X; 3rd Ben Rhoads, 2015 Kenworth W900L.
FIRST SHOW (COMBO): 1st Homer Ferguson, 2015 Peterbilt 389 & 2016 Mac Flatbed; 2nd Harold Demaree, 1991 Ford CLT9000 & 2013 Utility Dry Van; 3rd Tom Mahoney, 1991 Peterbilt 379 & 2015 E-Pack Dump.
ANTIQUE: 1st Chris Kikelhan, 1984 Peterbilt 359; 2nd Farrell Smith, 1987 Freightliner FLC; 3rd Kevin Halvac, 1988 Kenworth K100.
INTERIOR (CAB ONLY): 1st Brad Caton, 2014 Peterbilt 389 & 2013 Mac Tri-Axle Dump; 2nd Mike Horst, 2006 Pete 379; 3rd Dan Brubaker, 2014 Peterbilt 389.
INTERIOR (CAB & OEM SLEEPER): 1st Phil Miller, 2010 Pete 389 & 2015 Wilson Livestock trailer; 2nd David Foster, 2005 Kenworth W900L; 3rd Tony Hylton, 2012 Peterbilt 389.
ENGINE (WORKING TRUCK): 1st Phil Miller, 2010 Pete 389 & 2015 Wilson Livestock; 2nd Mike Horst, 2006 Pete 379; 3rd Brad Caton, 2014 Pete 389 & 2013 Mac Tri-Axle Dump.
PAINT & GRAPHICS (WORKING BOBTAIL): 1st JD Hawthorne, 2015 Peterbilt 389; 2nd Dan Brubaker, 2014 Peterbilt 389; 3rd David Foster, 2005 Kenworth W900L.
PAINT & GRAPHICS (WORKING COMBO): 1st Brad Caton, 2014 Peterbilt 389 & 2013 Mac Tri-Axle Dump; 2nd Phil Miller, 2010 Peterbilt 389 & 2015 Wilson Livestock trailer; 3rd James Davis, 1993 Peterbilt 379 & 2006 Mac Flatbed.
LIGHTS (WORKING BOBTAIL): 1st Dan Brubaker, 2014 Peterbilt 389; 2nd Larry Wheeler, 2004 Peterbilt 379; 3rd David Foster, 2005 Kenworth W900L.
LIGHTS (WORKING COMBO): 1st Phil Miller, 2010 Peterbilt 389 & 2015 Wilson Livestock trailer; 2nd Brad Caton, 2014 Peterbilt 389 & 2013 Mac Tri-Axle Dump; 3rd John Jaikes, 1999 Kenworth W900L & 2005 Utility 3000R.
BOBTAIL (LIMITED MILEAGE): 1st Todd Roccapriore, 1999 Pete 379; 2nd Jerry Kissinger, 1979 Mack Superliner; 3rd Tony LaFontaine, 1993 Peterbilt 379; 4th Israel Turner, 1979 Pete 359; 5th Josh Stier, 1984 Peterbilt 359.
COMBO (LIMITED MILEAGE): 1st Josh Reed, 2015 Kenworth W900L & 2015 Mac Flatbed; 2nd Josh Skidmore, 2007 Peterbilt 379 & 2013 Western Stepdeck; 3rd Michael Manuel, 1984 Pete 359 & 2003 Benson Flatbed; 4th Theresa DeSantis, 1985 Peterbilt 359 Ext. Hood & 2016 East; 5th Larry Winkler, 1987 Peterbilt 359 & 2015 Westmor Propane Bottle.
COMBO DUMP (LIMITED MILEAGE): 1st Brian Davis, 2005 Peterbilt 379 & 2012 Wilson; 2nd Bill Warner Jr., 1979 Peterbilt 352H & 2010 Mac Dump; 3rd Brian Fretwell, 2013 Kenworth W900L & 2013 Timpte Grain Trailer; 4th Patrick Cercone, 2015 Peterbilt 389 & 2015 Coras Frameless Dump; 5th Henry Lopez, 2014 Pete 389 & 2014 Travis End Dump.
BEST INTERIOR (LIMITED MILEAGE): Todd Roccapriore, 1999 Peterbilt 379.
BEST ENGINE (LIMITED MILEAGE): Todd Roccapriore, 1999 Peterbilt 379.
PAINT & GRAPHICS (LIMITED MILEAGE BOBTAIL): Todd Roccapriore, 1999 Pete 379.
PAINT & GRAPHICS (LIMITED MILEAGE COMBO): Brian Davis, 2005 Peterbilt 379 & 2012 Wilson.
LIGHTS (LIMITED MILEAGE BOBTAIL): Todd Roccapriore, 1999 Peterbilt 379.
LIGHTS (LIMITED MILEAGE COMBO): Brian Davis, 2005 Peterbilt 379 & 2012 Wilson.
ROADWORKS’ “BEST USE OF CHROME” AWARD (BOBTAIL): Rodney Griffin, 2015 Peterbilt 389.
ROADWORKS’ “BEST USE OF CHROME” AWARD (COMBO): Josh Skidmore, 2007 Pete 379 & 2013 Western Stepdeck.
FIRESTONE’S “MOST TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED CAB” AWARD: Cliff King, 2014 Peterbilt 386 & 2006 Wabash Dry Van.
ROCKWOOD “RUNNIN’ LATE” AWARD: Greg Jenkins, 1988 Peterbilt 362.
JAKE EILEN MEMORIAL AWARD: Mike Horst, 2006 Peterbilt 379.
BEST OF SHOW WORKING BOBTAIL: Mike Horst, 2006 Peterbilt 379.
BEST OF SHOW WORKING COMBO: Brad Caton, Eilen & Sons Trucking, 2014 Peterbilt 389 & 2013 Mac Tri-Axle Dump.
PEOPLE’S CHOICE: Todd Roccapriore, 1999 Peterbilt 379 – “Disorderly Conduct”