This year’s premier trucking industry event, the annual American Trucking Association’s Management Conference & Exhibition, was recently held at the Austin Convention Center in Texas.
Taking place from October 14-17, the event included a myriad of sessions on top industry issues, panels with experts and industry leaders, and a 250,000-square-foot MCE Exhibit Hall that featured the newest and most innovative technologies and services for the trucking industry.
If you didn’t get the chance to attend this year’s conference, or you’re just looking for a refresher on your jam packed experience, keep reading for Drive My Way’s rundown on the biggest takeaways and important moments from the 2023 ATA Management Conference & Exhibition.
“The Rhythm of Change: Navigating the Future of Trucking”
A common theme throughout the four day conference was the future direction of the trucking industry amid the current issues facing today’s driver’s and employers.
“MCE is trucking’s foremost event for policy and strategy, bringing together trucking’s sharpest
minds and most passionate supporters to tackle the top issues confronting our industry,” said ATA President & CEO, Chris Spear. “In the face of a turbulent economy, unworkable environmental mandates, pressing labor issues, and rampant lawsuit abuse, our industry is experiencing a number of defining challenges. By leveraging the immense talent within our industry and drawing on the knowledge of experts, we can emerge even stronger.”
More than 3,100 leaders in the trucking industry, representing 790 companies from across North America, Europe, and Asia, spent their time at this year’s conference learning how to adapt to evolving trends, weighing in on regulatory policy and legislative issues, and networking to build industry wide connections.
A variety of educational sessions and panels took place throughout the conference, each led by experts in the field who shed light on innovative strategies for continued success in the industry. An October 16 panel that included American Central Transport President and COO Phil Wilt, Prime Inc. Director of Operations Jim Guthrie and CarriersEdge President Mark Murrell was filled with important takeaways for those looking to increase driver retention and satisfaction.
Murrell, co-founder of CarriersEdge and co-creator of the annual workplace recognition program Best Fleets to Drive For, explained that companies must offer more than competitive pay and benefits if they want to increase retention of quality drivers. Companies must also regularly seek driver feedback and actually act on it.
“Everybody can put a survey out and say, ‘Tell us what you want! Tell us what you want! Tell us what you want!’” said Murrell. “But if [drivers] don’t see you actually doing something with that feedback, they start to get quiet. You’re highlighting the things you’re doing as a response to their feedback. You’re giving them an update on what’s happening. That’s a critical part.”
However, Murrel made clear that competitive pay is still a key differentiating factor. Although the long standing industry-standard of orientation pay for drivers has been $100 a day, Murrel said that many fleets are now doubling or tripling that offer. With pay being a perennial top concern for drivers, knowing that some fleets offer as much as $500 per day of orientation is important to keep in mind when planning next quarter’s budget.
Awards, Exhibits, and More!
The ATA Management Conference is also a time to celebrate industry leaders and game changers who are constantly working to improve the field of trucking for everyone. For the second year in a row, the ATA recognized companies from across the nation with the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Change Leader Award for their efforts and commitments to ensuring their companies are places of tolerance and acceptance.
This year, eight companies were recognized with the award:
- Believers Trucking
- Cargo Transporters Inc.
- Covenant Logistics
- Garner Trucking Inc.
- Knight-Swift Transportation
- Kodiak Robotics
- Pilot Flying J
- Werner Enterprises Inc.
Each year, a major draw for many attendees is the MCE Exhibit Hall. This year’s 250,000 square-foot hall included over 200 companies offering the latest products, services, and technologies from the industry’s top manufacturers and suppliers. From truck parts to AI technology to banking and insurance services, the Exhibit Hall contained many tools that are sure to be essential to the future of the trucking industry.
The conference also included an important election by the ATA board of directors to decide who would succeed former ATA chairman Dan Van Alstine, president and chief operating officer of Ruan Transportation Management Systems. On October 17, the board voted to elect Andrew Boyle, co-president of Boyle Transportation in Billerica, Mass.
“It is a tremendous privilege to be chosen by my peers in the trucking industry to be ATA chairman,” Boyle said. “Being selected to serve the millions of hardworking men and women who make up this great industry is an incredible honor, and I’m excited to take on this challenge.”
Every year, the ATA Management Conference & Exhibition proves to be the preeminent celebration of industry leaders and the birthplace of future trucking trends. The 2023 conference was no exception, offering attendees the opportunity to learn how to stay ahead of changes in the industry and build important connections that help to keep the world of commercial truck driving united and accessible for all.