Truxpo goes into the books as a major success

by Jim Bray

ABBOTTSFORD, B.C. — Even the Lower Mainland’s famous precipitation couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of exhibitors and attendees of the kickoff to the biennial Truxpo show, held this year on Sept. 19-20 at the Tradex complex in Abbottsford, B.C.

Mother nature eventually gave up trying to rain on the parade, leading to a dry but cloudy Friday evening and a gorgeous, balmy Saturday that saw a big turnout for the popular indoor and outdoor affair that this time also offered a substantially different face from previous versions.

And while it was a bigger show than before, it was a shorter one as well, with the displays and events compressed into two days from the previous three – a scheduling change organizers said was greeted with open arms by the people tasked with standing on their feet for long hours at a time.

“It is a very tiring and resource-intensive time for the organizers and the exhibitors,” said Louise Yako, president and CEO of the British Columbia Trucking Association, the presenting sponsor for Truxpo, “and the exhibitors were telling us that they really thought that if we changed the show hours, compacted the show, that it would get better bang for our buck and theirs.”

It seems to have worked. According to show manager Mark Cusack of Master Promotions, which now owns the show, “We had record numbers our opening day, and even at 8:30 p.m. (Friday) both buildings were still full of people.”

He said many people also attended Friday night’s show-and-shine event just outside the Tradex complex, a bash that featured a display of lights from over 40 trucks.

“They had their horns going and their lights and I know a lot of people went outside to witness that,” he said. “It was beautiful.”

And that was just Day One. “Typically, Saturday is our biggest day,” Cusack noted, his comments borne out by a steady stream of individuals and families who stopped by to rubberneck the latest and greatest in trucks, trailers, and equipment. And this year, there was a lot more on tap than just nifty displays and their associated sales folks trying to market their latest wares to a receptive captive audience. Truxpo 2014 was augmented by the 2014 version of the Pacific Heavy Equipment Show, which set up in the parking lot across the street from the Tradex complex, while Truxpo’s opening day kicked off with a half-day conference in which presenters from a variety of sectors (including forestry, construction, mining, oil and gas, and intermodal shipping) updated attendees on the state of their industries today and tomorrow.

Not all of the presenters concentrated on trucking per se, but Yako noted that “each of those sectors relies on truck transportation and we wanted to give kind of an overview of the next three to five years – and potentially longer for some of them, like the LNG projects – about potential economic impact as well as the operational and business impact, so the trucking company representatives in the room could begin to think about how they might be able to take advantage of those situations and be prepared for them.”

Yako said the half-day conference was well received.

“We had over 100 people in the room, and they appreciated the level of information as well as the breadth of information provided,” she said.

After the conference, attendees were treated to another new event, a buffet lunch held in a tent set up behind the Tradex centre. The luncheon provided an opportunity to hear from B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone, who was effusive in his praise for the industry. Stone also spoke of the province’s 10-year transportation plan, saying “the movement of goods in this province is something we all need to work really hard to ensure is in the forefront of everyone’s minds.”

The Minister’s remarks were followed by an appearance from popular speaker Mike ‘Pinball’ Clemons, the legendary Toronto Argonaut hall-of-famer whose praise for the trucking industry was even more enthusiastic than Stone’s.

“You are the catalyst for our economy,” Clemons said, “and the foundation of our existence as human beings – because you bring us our food, energy, medicine, whatever. You’re the best of who we are…and if you didn’t do what you do, life as we know it would not exist. You’re an industry that’s always there.”

With lunch completed and a door prize awarded, the action returned to the show floor and, judging from the buzz there, those with skin in the game were happy with the event – and few missed the Thursday VIP event that was dropped this year.

“Every exhibitor I’ve talked to has said that they’ve had great traffic and they’re really happy with the quality of the traffic,” Yako said, noting that last time there had been “some complaints about it not being very busy. One of the days was pretty quiet, and the numbers were low overall, so we tried to figure out ways to improve the numbers.”

And that’s what led to the mini-conference and luncheon – as well as the organizers trying some new promotion strategies this year.

According to Cusack, advertising for the event also targeted some of B.C.’s ethnic community.

“We spent a lot of energy and marketing dollars in making sure that we reached the Indo-Canadian market,” he said, “because in this area, especially, it’s a huge market. And the dealers and the OEMs want to see them (turn out). So we really expended maximum energy and to bring them here. And I think it’s worked.”

Promotional outreach also extended beyond the continental divide, with the show receiving endorsements from the trucking associations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

]“Because there is only one truck trailer and equipment tradeshow in the Western provinces, we wanted the trucking company owners and managers and drivers from (the other western provinces) to feel like this was a show that they could attend as well,” Yako said, “and so we were fortunate enough to receive endorsements from those associations so they would promote the show to their members.”

It was another area in which Master Productions and the BCTA cooperated for the greater good. “The BCTA said it wouldn’t hurt if we had the other Western trucking associations endorse the event,” Cusack said, “so they…spoke to them all and we’re happy to have them here. And it’s worked out really well.” Cusack said the outreach went so far as to offer discount flights on Westjet from Calgary and Winnipeg to the Abbotsford Airport and, while they didn’t expect a huge turnout from Points East, he said “I think we’ll be surprised (when we look at our geographical breakdown of attendees) because it definitely brought in some people for sure.”

There was also a bigger turnout of exhibitors than for the 2012 incarnation. “We sold out every square inch of (the Tradex) building,” Cusack said. “We didn’t even have room for even one more 10 x 10 display.”

This was the second Truxpo in which the BCTA worked with Master Promotions, who bought the show from the association in 2011, and Yako said it’s basically been a marriage made in heaven. “We are not in the trade show management business,” she noted, “and that meant we were spending a lot of time and a lot of staff resources managing the show in a way that we didn’t think allowed us to maximize the experience for either the exhibitors or the people coming to the show.” Yako said it made sense for the BCTA to find a partner to purchase the show from them, with the Association continuing to be its public face and supporting it as best as they could.

The result was a win-win scenario. “It’s worked out tremendously well,” Yako said. “What it’s meant to the Association is that the staff that had been dedicated to doing (the show) are now redeployed on developing programs and services, and supporting programs and services, for our members,” she said, noting that the move has allowed the BCTA to focus on what it does best. “Over the last year, for example, we have introduced three new training streams that we would not otherwise have been able to do, so it’s providing added value to our members in that way,” she said.

Master Promotions also considers the relationship to be a win for both parties. “We own the show but they’re the presenting sponsor and they helped us tremendously,” Cusack said. “As a show company that produces construction shows and forestry shows, trucking is relatively new for us, especially on the west coast. It’s hard for us to find out who the carriers are, whereas that’s the BCTA’s business.”

Having a second show next door also helped bolster attendance. “The Pacific Heavy Equipment Show, which normally runs every three years, just happened to land in 2014 on these dates,” Cusack said. “So we put it in the parking lot across from Tradex and that gave us, if nothing else, another 4,000 to 5,000 attendees. And there is quite a bit of crossover on the exhibitor base and the visitors. Let’s face it, everyone of them has a truck. It was a good add-on.”

But probably only a one-time add-on, since the next Pacific Heavy Equipment show isn’t scheduled until 2017, whereas the next Truxpo will be in 2016. That begs the question of whether a different sister event will be found. “It’s possible,” said Cusack. “Once we do our post-wrap up and see what the construction side brought to the truck side and vice versa, maybe we’ll decide that we should put something else with the show.”

The post-event navel gazing will obviously include the BCTA as presenting sponsor. “I think it’s always a mistake to just stand still,” Yako said, “so we will reconvene with the Truxpo committee and with Master Promotions once the dust settles and once we have the responses to the exhibitors’ survey.”

As for Master Promotions, so far it’s bullish heading toward Truxpo 2016. “This was a pivotal year for us,” said Cusack, noting that “It’s the best Truxpo so far. We had a couple of years that weren’t so great, but the trucking industry’s pretty strong right now.”

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