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TMC 2024: Preview of New Orleans conference and trade show

Feb. 13, 2024
TMC's Annual Meeting won't have the razzle dazzle of Mardi Gras, but trucking's premier meeting and expo "is where the real action is happening" in New Orleans from March 4-7, according to TMC Executive Director Robert Braswell.

The last time the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council held a major event was in 1990; Russia and Ukraine were still part of the Soviet Union and Iraq had just invaded Kuwait. A lot has changed in the world since then, but TMC’s mission to guide the trucking industry through the process of creating new standards and best practices has remained a constant.

And while some attendees may be more excited to explore the French Quarter during their time at the 2024 Annual Meeting & Transportation Technology Exhibition (March 4-7), TMC Executive Director Robert Braswell asserted the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center “is where the real action is happening.”

That includes seeing what’s new with 372 exhibitors on the show floor, along with attending one or more of the 100+ task force sessions (which take place Monday, March 4), with subject matter ranging from pre-trip inspections to parts room standardization. This year’s overall theme is “Quality Spec’ing for Optimal Performance.” 

Braswell explained that while the various new technologies and solutions displayed on the show floor are an important part of the event, the meetings regarding new systems and equipment are even more crucial because these are where fleet professionals can “take an active role in shaping the standards that are being developed for the next 15 to 20 years.” 

He recalled this happening in the 1990s with that era’s antilock braking systems coming to market, where TMC’s members “were instrumental in developing standards that made that a much more efficient process.” Now their sights are set on standardizing secondary trailer connections, which are becoming more prevalent as trailers become more sophisticated.

“When we surveyed our membership, over 40%, were using some sort of second connector, and there's no standardization right now for that,” Braswell said. “This is a big opportunity to figure out a way to accommodate all these new technologies that are happening—not just additional circuits, but also things like automotive Ethernet and CAN FD.”

There are several aspects to consider, including signal speeds, protocols, and networks, though the goal is to avoid the European solution, where up to four connectors could be placed on the back of the trailer. Because North American fleets often provide their own maintenance, unlike in Europe where the OEMs take the lead, there’s a greater need to provide universal guidance. And the efficiency-minded Braswell is looking “to do it once, and come see me again in 50 years.”

Read more: Video: 2023 TMC Fall Meeting and TMCSuperTech

In the exhibit hall, showgoers will get to see for themselves what the “Next Generation Tractor-Trailer Interface” could look like (Booth#4329), as the display will have eight or nine potential options, while the S.1 Electrical Study Group will discuss the matter at the task force meeting (Monday, March 4, 9:30 -10:30 a.m.)

We’ve reported on fleets’ frustrations regarding how to calculate an electric vehicle's total cost of ownership, and the S.11 Sustainability & Environmental Technology Study Group will be tackling that on March 4 at 12:30 p.m. EV spec’ing and energy management are also on the docket.

There will be plenty of sessions to gather as much information on electrification as possible, such as the technical session “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your Electric Power Provider But Were Afraid to Ask” (Tuesday, March 5; 8:30-10 a.m.).

The focus is not only on the future of trucking. Sometimes components and methods warrant new discussions as more data comes to light. For example, the S.6 Chassis & Brake Systems Study Group educational session “Air Disc Brakes: Are They Worth It?” (Tuesday, March 5; 4:15 – 5:45 p.m.) will tackle when drums have an advantage over ADBs. Contrary to earlier beliefs, drum brakes could provide a total cost advantage in “some if not a lot of applications,” Braswell said, due to the shorter service life intervals and increased maintenance costs. 

If anyone has any technology or component grievances to air, Fleet Talk (Monday, March 4; 4-5 p.m.) and Shop Talk (March 6, 7-8:30 a.m.) are the open forums to get stuff off your chest. It could be cathartic just to hear what pain points you might share with colleagues.

On the recommended practice front, the S.5 Fleet Maintenance Management study group put the finishing touches on RP 55: Root Cause Analysis Methodology. Braswell explained the RP is basically teaching the scientific method and will provide “an overview of the kind of root cause analysis methods that you can employ in a fleet or even manufacturing or service provider operation.” This involves integrating the Toyota Production System’s “5 Whys” concept and the Ishikawa, or Fishbone, Diagram.

 The group needs to review comments on the RP before bringing it to the ballot. Following the appeal period, the new RP should be adopted around the end of 2024. 

“I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of fleets do not employ some sort of root cause analysis methodology, at least not in the structured way that we describe it,” Braswell noted.

For more information, visit TMC’s official site. And if you can’t make it to the Big Easy, you can catch up on all the announcements and activities through our coverage on FleetMaintenance.com.

About the Author

John Hitch | Editor-in-chief, Fleet Maintenance

John Hitch is the editor-in-chief of Fleet Maintenance, where his mission is to provide maintenance management and technicians with the the latest information on the tools and strategies to keep their fleets' commercial vehicles moving.

He is based out of Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in the B2B journalism space for more than a decade.

Hitch was previously senior editor for FleetOwner, and covers everything related to trucking and commercial vehicle equipment, including breaking news, the latest trends and best practices. He previously wrote about manufacturing and advanced technology for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest.

Prior to that he was editor for Kent State University's student magazine, The Burr, and a freelancer for Cleveland Magazine. He is an award-winning journalist and former sonar technician, where he served honorably aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723).

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