My Work Truck Week experience

By Wm. Craig Bonham, NTEA Board Chairman

Vice President, Commercial Vehicle, Safe Fleet
Belton, Missouri

This article was published in the April 2019 edition of NTEA News.

In recent years, The Work Truck Show® has become increasingly vital to our company’s success. It’s a one-of-a-kind gathering where thousands of industry decision-makers come together to explore, educate and engage. I’m passionate about creating business opportunities and professional connections at this event. For me, Work Truck Show 2019 was, undoubtedly, the most memorable yet. Allow me to take a moment to share some highlights from the week.

With more than 500,000 square feet of exhibit space filled with 500 exhibiting companies, I needed a tool to help me maximize my time effectively. The mobile app helped me see as much as possible. The displays were vibrant, featuring vocational trucks from Classes 1–8 (including chassis, bodies, components, equipment, technology and accessories). I logged countless miles walking around the exhibit hall, evaluating the latest innovations, surveying exhibitor options and talking with peers (many of whom I consider friends). The New Exhibitor Pavilion was unique to Work Truck Show 2019; I found it useful to have a dedicated space showcasing first-time companies.

I stopped by NTEA’s booth several times. It was exciting to see the series of live demonstrations covering newly-released member benefits and products. The first Truck Equipment 201 module on vehicle certification covers information vital to bringing high-quality and safe vehicles to market; this is a top priority for us at Safe Fleet, so the course caught my attention. The cloud-based Vehicle Life Cycle Cost Tool, a new member benefit enabling users to evaluate multiple strategic or operational alternatives in a quick, comprehensive approach, was another industry game-changer. WorkTruckCert — a powerful, cloud-based program designed to streamline the completion and printing of certification labels — was an additional highlight. This new system archives vehicle records and helps companies demonstrate conformance with NHTSA-required safety standards. Weight calculator options were also front and center. Beyond its Vehicle Center of Gravity & Axle Weight Calculator, the Association recently partnered with TruckScience, a global technology provider, to offer NTEA members access to an innovative weight calculator resource at a discounted subscription rate.

This year, NTEA debuted the Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference. Commercial truck manufacturers, upfitters, distributors and body builders came together to share insights on improving manufacturing efficiency and business results using the latest techniques and technology. The conference spoke to the most advanced tools, processes and resources available, and how these solutions can be scaled and customized to operations of all sizes. As the day progressed, session presenters covered several topics, such as deploying the best manufacturing technology, equipment and practices. Discussion focused on topics like welding; engaging government programs to enhance productivity; creating a culture of mentoring; integrating lean techniques to boost innovation; and forming a process for effective recruitment and retention. I appreciated that each session allowed for Q&A and group dialogue; this format enabled us to get practical in making application.

The Work Truck Industry Overview and Outlook session provided economic and market information to help us optimize our business planning processes. Two subject matter experts explained commercial vehicle trends and how they are affected by U.S. and global economic cycles. Some takeaways I found particularly noteworthy include a good but decelerating level of consumer confidence; cash and credit options available to consumers; and historically low but rising interest rates. Presenters explained that the construction industry (in addition to state/local government spending and the global economy, for that matter) is undergoing growth, but at a declining rate. These relatively positive trends are balanced by challenging dynamics like labor shortages, inflation, substantial business debt, high capacity utilization, large federal government deficits, and general political certainty in the U.S. and around the world.

I made a point to drop in on as many of the 15 chassis manufacturer update sessions as possible. Staying familiar with activity from the leading OEMs is critically important to our Safe Fleet team, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate our Association for creating that opportunity.

As an avid football fan, I loved attending the opening reception venue — Lucas Oil Stadium — on Tuesday of Work Truck Week. I had a blast visiting the NFL locker room, watching people throw the ball on the field and taking in the 30,000-square-foot view — all while catching up with colleagues.

Transitioning to NTEA Board chairman during President’s Breakfast was a surreal moment for me. Given our mutual background in sales, hearing keynote Jeffrey Gitomer share his thoughts on the difference between customer loyalty and satisfaction was especially meaningful to me. Then, it was an honor to chat with Super Bowl-winning quarterback and NFL MVP Peyton Manning and his father, All-American quarterback and NFL legend Archie Manning.

Work Truck Show 2019 was consequential to my growth as an industry professional. I look forward to the updates and reset that it provides me each year. My outlook on all things commercial vehicle has been refreshed; I’m equipped with tangible takeaways and have made many new business connections. Sincere thanks to all those who contributed — sponsors, exhibitors and NTEA staff.