Line One
Drivers, start your pork chops

By Bill Hudgins


It’s totally appropriate that the music welcoming you to the 2009 Mid-America Trucking Show Web site is the theme from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” It not only fits this year’s “Tried & True” Western theme, but also is a good summary of the industry for the past year and likely for months to come.

The Bad and The Ugly don’t need rehashing here, unless you’re new in town, pardner. But the daily seminars offered at MATS can offer some insight into how and why we’ve seen the worst business conditions in more than a generation, as well as into what’s ahead and how to survive it.

The seminars in Room B-104 of the Kentucky Expo Center’s South Wing Conference Center are free and don’t require advance registration, which is good.

A gang from OOIDA headquarters (and from our DC office) will be there, along with Land Line editors and a few regular columnists. Land Line Now will be broadcasting from there, as well. Look for the Association’s people at Booth No. 12108 in the North Wing, Booth 65004 in the West Wing, and Booth 91425 – that’s the Spirit truck – outside.

As for more Good … Even in tough times, there is something spirit-lifting about the scope of MATS, something that says truckers and trucking are here to stay, tough times or not.

Sprawling over more than 1.2 million square-feet of exhibit space with 1,174 vendors and 76,000 visitors last year, MATS has been officially ranked as one of the 20 largest trade shows in North America. It is the unchallenged big dog truck show on the continent.

MATS is as much a visit to the state fair as it is an opportunity to improve your business. How could you not feel better after spending a few hours poking around shiny new trucks, enjoying one of the legendary pork chop sandwiches, or snapping up the endless souvenirs, from key fobs and ballpoint pens to the much-prized yardsticks and truck brand pins?

After too-short visits to the past several Mid-America Trucking Shows, I am plunging back full-bore into the experience. I’m planning to be there from the first piece of Danish at the all-day press gaggle on March 18 through the last call for pork chops on Saturday, March 21.

As I write this in early January, the show folks are still compiling the show directory, but they assure us that 75 percent of last year’s vendors will be back. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the engine technologies that (I hope) will receive EPA and CARB’s blessing in 2010, and I’m slipping on the nuances of engine lubrication and cooling. So when people ask what I learned there, I will be able hold forth like an engineer.

I’m also looking forward to seeing old friends. One guy I’ve got to look up is OOIDA member David Henry of Brooten, MN, who owns Custom Studio Sleepers (, Booth No. 63084) and who is building really big custom sleepers for Kenworths. His 112-inch-to-156-inch sleeper conversions blend into the cab along the lines of factory original sleepers. They use a one-piece fiberglass roof cap that can fit a T600, T660, T800, W900 or W900L. He’s recently added a version that subtly adds up to 10 inches in sleeper width without sacrificing the smooth factory original lines. I gotta see that for myself.

And of course I’m really looking forward to the big iron (or, more likely, aluminum these days), especially the National Association of Show Trucks Truck-Lite Trophy shootout and the Pride and Polish beauty show. It’s a tribute to the tenacity and business smarts of these show truck owners that they can maintain such incredible rigs in difficult times.

But mostly I’m looking forward to rubbing shoulders with a few thousand of you and your families. For more than a century, trucking has helped drive our country through good times, bad times and ugly times. Hands on the wheel, truckers have helped hold the front lines of America’s greatness. We’re still on the job, and Mid-America is a great place to celebrate.

Until next time, be safe, make money and get home often. LL


Bill Hudgins can be reached at