Recapping MATS: Trucks, truckers’ images & a candidate

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Updated Apr 8, 2016
lisa-kelly-edgar-hansen-mats-2016Edgar Hansen (left) and Lisa Kelly pose with a young fan at the Chevron Delo booth of MATS Saturday, April 2.

Another Mid-America Trucking Show is in the books. The show at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville wrapped up Saturday, April 2.

Folks came, they saw and went home carrying tote bags packed with brochures and smartphones filled with selfies in front of trucks, with celebrities and even some with a large stuffed tiger that was making the rounds.

New products were unveiled. Weighty issues discussed at seminars. Music was played. Awards were handed out to the owners of great looking trucks. Even FMCSA top dog F. Scott Darling was spotted wandering among the 1,100 booths.

And, by the way, a presidential candidate and his riding mate circulated among attendees with no entourage in sight.

Here are a few of the takeaways from MATS 2016.

KW1954 Kenworth at MATS

The Image of Truckers & Trucking

An unofficial theme of this year’s MATS could easily have been the ongoing process to spruce up the image of the American trucking industry.

The brain trust behind Trucking Moves America Forward explained the awareness campaign’s successes, which have been considerable since being launched at MATS last year. They also outlined their goals for their second year push, including increased contact with government officials.

The images of individual truckers were truly on display at MATS 2016.

Trucker Buddy International honored its outstanding driver and teacher of the year. The organization connects drivers as pen pals to some 2,000 school classrooms.

TA Petro announced its third class of Citizen Driver honorees. Six individual drivers and a husband and wife team were recognized at a luncheon, during which their considerable accomplishments in and out of the cab were detailed.

Goodyear recognized its latest Highway Hero at the show, a New York driver who saved a motorists life.

A Dose of Reality (TV)

While there was no red carpet at MATS, there was more than a handful of celebrities signing things and posing for photos. Stars from TV shows included:

TonyTony Justice performs at MATS

Cathy Rose, a Headstart teacher from near Louisville waited to take her 11-year-old son’s picture with Kelly and Hansen at the Chevron Delo booth Saturday afternoon.

Rose said her entire family are fans of “Ice Road Truckers,” and especially Kelly.

“She knows what she wants and is not afraid to go for it,” said Rose about Kelly.

Musical MATS

MATS was also a great place to meet country singers. Terri Clark was there, as were Brad James, Craig Morton, Kentucky Headhunters and EXILE.

A real fan favorite was Tony Justice, a hard-working truck driver for Everhart Transportation Inc. who works just as hard on his growing musical career. He was at the Red Eye Radio booth Saturday morning performing songs from his latest CD, “Brothers of The Highway,” signing autographs and posing for photos with fans.

Fewer New Trucks But More Older Ones

While all of the OEM’s took a pass on the show this year, the American Truck Historical Society filled up some of the open space with numerous examples of vintage iron.

prezPresidential candidate James Harman and Sidecar at MATS

An easy crowd favorite was a 1954 Kenworth CC523, which owner Tom Mullen said spent its productive life in the timber camps of the Pacific Northwest. The orange and cream KW has a Cummins NHB220 with a back drop manifold, and a Fuller 10-speed two-stick and a Dana 8031 auxiliary four-speed.

Running For President

Making the rounds of MATS was James Harman, a presidential candidate of the Constitution Freedom Party, and full-time truck driver.

His slogan: “The common man for the common people.”

His lament: The media doesn’t pay attention to candidates like him.

His platform planks include: Put God first; revitalize local economies; balance the budget; make the U.S. military the strongest in the world and care for veterans; decrease the powers of the EPA, IRS and Department of Education.

His assistant at the show: Sidecar, his trusty ride-along pup.