Steve Carey, president and CEO of the NTEA, the association of the work truck industry, recently made it down from Detroit to attend the ground breaking of Buyers Products major corporate expansion project at its Mentor, Ohio headquarters in August.
Those in the snow and ice community are probably most familiar with the NTEA from the gigantic Work Truck Show that the NTEA hosts every year that is the premier event for any business that depends on trucks to accomplish its mission. However, what many of you may not be aware of is that the group represents more than 2,100 companies that manufacture, distribute, install, sell and repair commercial trucks, truck bodies, truck equipment, trailers and accessories. In addition, buyers of work trucks and the major commercial truck chassis manufacturers also counted among the NTEA’s ranks. Throughout the year, the association provides its members with in-depth technical information, education, and member programs and services.
We got a few moments with Steve following the ceremony to talk about the state of the truck industry and the type of technological innovations work truck manufacturers are developing to bring to market that may be of interest to the professional snow and ice management contractor community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all segments of our industry. For snow and ice management contractors, what impact has it had on the work truck segment of our industry and what can they expect to see as they begin their preparations for Winter 2020-21?
STEVE CAREY: That’s a good question. It’s going to have to do a lot with what the economic rebound looks like overall and where we can get people back to work. Overall, and among the various construction elements of the industry, we’re just hoping to see the economic developments continue to progress forward through the rest of this year.
With commercial work trucks in general, what sorts of technology do you see manufacturers applying to their new models that may be of interest to the professional snow and ice management community?
You see a couple of general trends overall that are centered around optimizing the truck for the user and making sure it’s as mission capable as can be out in the field. So, we’re seeing a lot of innovation around light weighting – what can manufactures do with trucks with light-weight components? And then there’s also the innovations around electrification. What can the trucks do and be mission capable the will reduce idling and so users can operate their systems, from a hydraulic perspective, without having the primary engine on.
With regard to the technical innovations we’re seeing in work truck, are electric engines going to be a reality with commercial work trucks? Or is battery [powered] technology still light years away from giving operators the same power that a gasoline or diesel image offers you?
Certainly, gas- and diesel-powered engines are going to be with us still for some time. What you’re seeing is that through the ongoing technical advances with electrification of the trucks. And you’re hearing a lot about “electric drive” as the next technology innovation [and] we’re seeing a stronger case being made for that today. And the most interesting development, at least within the work truck industry, is that development around the electric drive and it serving as the catalyst for the electrification of the rest of the work-truck systems through energy-storage systems that are really focused on keeping the trucks mission capable without primary engine loss.
When you look at the main manufacturers who are developing trucks for the working professionals – like snow and ice management contractors – who would you say is in the lead right now with regard to their technological innovations?
I’d say that they are all pretty technologically advanced. I’d say the trucks are becoming more of an integrated system to the [owners/users] business operations. So, [truck manufacturers] are looking at all kinds of ways to put technology into the vehicles from both a chassis perspective and equipment perspective that can tie into the user’s business operations and make these trucks more valuable and a better investment for the business owners who depend on them.
What’s your outlook for the work truck industry for the next couple of years?
Frankly, I believe this year is going to be more of a tougher year and we’re not quite sure what the economic outlook will look like right now. We’ve got some [work truck manufacturers] that are working through supply chain interruptions and getting product out the door and into the hands of consumers. We anticipate that as we roll into next year (2021) that the work truck industry will begin to strengthen again.