MATS 2018 is a technology convention as well as a trucking convention

March 23, 2018

Tyson Fisher

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The Mid-America Trucking Show is full of sights and sounds one expects to see: manufacturers, recruiting companies, parts companies and trucking-related seminars. However, MATS 2018 is full of something else: tech companies.

I would imagine very people are surprised by the emerging presence of technology in the trucking company. It is something that has been happening for many years now. However, you get a dose of reality of how much technology is taking over the industry by walking through MATS.

In the West Wing of the Kentucky Expo Center is where you will find product booths shoulder to shoulder. You still find the usual suspects here: wheels, lights, lubricants, suspension parts, chains, floor mats, cleaning/polishing supplies and everything chrome.

But for every company that one typically associates with trucking, there is another that existed before tapping into the trucking company. Many tech companies that offered products or services to other industries and general consumers are now seeing dollar signs in the trucking industry.

Here’s a small sample of tech companies I walked by at MATS 2018:

  • Arkon Mounts (universal tablet holder)
  • Fleetio (fleet management software)
  • Transfix (software for carriers and shippers)
  • ScanGauge (digital fuel efficiency tool)
  • weBoost (cellphone signal amplifier)
  • Convoy (“Trucking services powered by technology to drive reliability, transparency, efficiency, and insights”)
  • Cargo Bot (“Connecting shippers and carriers through the power of technology”)
  • StreamSmartNow.com (streaming television shows)
  • SigLog (transportation management system)
  • Optimo Electronics (“video-based driver safety technology”)
  • UTECH TMS (fleet management software)
  • TomTom
  • Free Signal TV (HD television antennas)
  • Garmin
  • Diesel Laptop (commercial truck diagnostic software, hardware, and laptop kits)
  • Wired Truck (¯\_(ツ)_/¯ something about ELDs)
  • Uber Freight

Again, that’s a small sample of tech at MATS 2018. You may notice how some of these companies existed before entering the trucking industry. You will also notice a lot of new, startup companies who are pouring their savings into the trucking industry. With so many out there, there appears to be no shortage of tech investors who see potential profits in the trucking industry.

MATS 2018 is just as much of a tech convention as it is a trucking convention.

Not only does MATS feel a little bit like the Consumer Electronics Show, but it goes the other way too. For the first time, the trucking industry had a very noticeable presence at CES this year.

Technology and trucking are merging.

Whether or not that is good or bad will vary from person to person. Based on the seminars and interviews I participated in, a lot of stakeholders believe hi-tech is how to lure in the younger generations. For better or for worse, that is probably spot on.

With that said, the trucking company is going to get more and more tech savvy. Mack’s lineup of trucks is 90 percent automated or automatic transmission. A big reason for that is to attract Millennials.

Millennials are driving less and less. They are flocking to the cities where they use public transit and ride bicycles. Many will graduate high school without having a driver’s license. Chances are the younger generation doesn’t care to bother to learn how to drive a manual, especially since they are putting all their chips in on automated vehicles.

However, self-driving trucks are in the far distant future. We won’t see driverless trucks anytime soon. With that said, Millennials will need to replace the Baby Boomer drivers eventually. Actually, soon.

Savvy tech entrepreneurs know this, and they are seizing the opportunity.

Technology in trucks is only going to increase and rapidly. I suggest getting used to it, because there is no financial incentive to avoid the inevitable. Welcome to 21st-century trucking.

WWWilliams

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.