HEAVY DUTY: CAT’s truck was surrounded by CAT earthmoving equipment.
HEAVY DUTY: CAT’s truck was surrounded by CAT earthmoving equipment.

Is this the end of TIA?

THE 16th through to 18th of March saw the return of the biannual Trucks in Action and Civil Works Expo at Lardner Park, Vic.

However the Trucks in Action part is but a shadow of its former self.

The heydays of this indoor/outdoor event set in glorious countryside an hour and a half south-east of Melbourne, saw 25,000-plus patrons attend a show that had exhibitors showing their wares in an abundance of product and colour, and entertaining serious (and possibly not so serious) would-be buyers in air-conditioned marquees that made the average 40 square home look positively down market. Some of these marquees were even two-storied.

The exhibitors/sponsors breakfast attracted more than 600 to listen to the wisdom of Lindsay Fox and the like. As the name implied, patrons could take a fully laden semi on a "run around the block" - the only show of its type. For those wanting a break there was live music to listen to. The accessories side of the show covered nearly as much space as the trucks and trailers on display.

So what has happened?

The Melbourne Truck & Trailer Show - that's what. About to stage it's third event, the Melbourne show, run a few short weeks after Trucks in Action has stolen the OEM's available marketing dollars. Melbourne (and Brisbane on alternate years) can cost a manufacturer up to $400,000 to be involved. That leaves very little cash for anything else.

Consequently the OEMs have withdrawn support from Trucks in Action. Kenworth was nowhere to be seen - and who can stage an event of this type without the doyen of Australian trucking? There was no product from the Daimler stable. Mack had a couple of trucks on display as did Scania. Hino and UD had displays - all in regulation white, but let's face it - the public by and large, come to these events to see the Big Rigs. The only display of credence was Iveco who had a range of product reflecting their newly found intention of increasing market share. Overall it was left to the dealers to put on a display, and they have nowhere near the budgets of the majors.

This year there was a Monster Truck demonstration. The $10 entry fee (for the first time) was supposedly to cover the cost of staging this. If so the thing should have been running all day. For lovers of earthmoving equipment, the entry fee may have been acceptable. Truck fans would have been demanding their money back.

On the basis of this year's experience the already dwindled attendance will be nil in two years time. And this is a crying shame, for the atmosphere of past shows made Trucks in Action one of the great events on the Australian trucking calendar.

This writer finds the Melbourne show (and the Brisbane one in its new indoor premises) relatively soul-less. Trucks in Action always carried a carnival-like atmosphere with its marquees, music, bar and truckies comparing notes or just catching up.

I am not decrying the efforts of the Lardner Park management who have tried their utmost in the face of fierce competition but if the event is to survive there needs to be a huge change. Here are some suggestions that have come from talking to the public. Run the event over to Sunday - truckies have much more opportunity to attend.

Stage a Pride & Polish - shows like Castlemaine and Alexandra attract more than 10,000 people on this premise alone. It also adds colour to the predominantly white vehicles displayed by the dealers.

Put up a tent city - exhibitors have complained for years about lack of accommodation in the area. Tents are available nowadays which put five star hotels to shame. Add catering and the Jack Daniels Experience and the show takes on a work and play persona which would have to be appealing to exhibitor and consumer alike.

Live music evenings - adds to the exhibitors experience and could make a buck from the public.

And most importantly - move the whole event to the alternate years where it runs against Brisbane rather than Melbourne.

There are many thousands of truckies and potential buyers of truck product that don't make it to Brisbane.

The fact is, if Trucks in Action can attract the customer then manufacturers/dealers will be compelled to attend. I just hope that it is not too late.

"... move the whole event to the alternate years where it runs against Brisbane rather than Melbourne."

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