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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – China is advancing quickly on the U.S. trucking industry with its dominating presence at the world’s largest trucking trade show, held here this weekend.
Signs were posted identifying exhibits run by between 120 and 140 individuals as representatives of some 40 Chinese companies at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show.
“What we are seeing is a manifestation of the Pacific Rim Market. But their products are inferior and do not hold up. They are cheaper, but the quality is not there,” Collin Genge, an American truck driver for Bay Area Transport, said.
It is more than just inferior products that bothers Genge.
“The bigger question is why are we doing business with a communist-based country with such human rights violations and basic disregard for labor rights,” he wonders.
While the Chinese booths sit empty much of the time, there is the occasional contact. Kevin Hu is a manager for Shenzhen BYF Semi-trailer Parts from South ShenZhen China. He says the trip was well worth it.
“We are here to make contacts so we can compete on the global market,” he told WND.
Elin Zhang, sales manager for Yonglitai Axle Co. from Foshan, Guangdong, China, agreed.
“We want to meet customers here,” he said.
That, however, wasn’t an easy task.
With signs and propaganda material displaying both English language text and Chinese characters, the vendors struggled with the English language.
Daniel Teed is a manager for URO Systems in Meadville, Pa.
“I have watched the Chinese vendors try to communicate with potential customers, and I have tried to visit with them, too, but there is an obvious language barrier. Several just point at the brochures,” he said.
Teed told WND that he does not mind competition, but it is not fair competition.
“The Chinese government probably subsidized their trip. No one subsidized mine. We simply are not on a competitive playing field when it comes to labor costs, environmental regulations, or government support,” said Teed.
Angela and Don Ring are team drivers for Landstar Transportation. The Rings, who have been driving for about 35 years, asked, “Why are they here. We have enough problems in our country with the economy today. Why would we want to outsource more when we need jobs for Americans?”
In addition to displaying Chinese products, members of the entourage are taking photos and videos of other products, and are even attempting to take over certain products supply lines.
Performance Diesel Inc. was approached by Chinese vendors who wanted to manufacture the PDI manifold in China at a lesser cost.
Jerad Wittwer, president of PDI, told WND, “They did come over to my booth and looked at our product. They offered to manufacture my product in China at a cheaper rate, but I told them thanks, but no thanks.”
“The quality would not match what I do, and that is what I sell – perfection and good quality. Sometimes it is best to sell quality, not price. Besides, what is the benefit to the United States if we start to manufacture everything elsewhere,” asked Wittwer.
Teed told WND several Chinese vendors visited his booth and took pictures and videos of his products.
“It just makes me wonder what they are really doing over here,” said Teed.
Genge, who has driven for 37 years, has a theory.
“As you watch them walk around and take photos and videos of the other products, I would bet money that in the next year or two we will see more Chinese vendors with more products similar to the ones offered at the show. This trip, for them, is about taking over the industry,” he said.
More than 1,150 exhibitors were at the show, and the Chinese delegation featured everything from truck seats to rubber hoses, camshafts to shocks, oil filters to wheels, and brakes to various steel parts.
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Michael Howe is a free-lance writer and radio talk show host who has covered political and legislative issues for several magazines. He resides in the Denver area where he serves on the faculty of Morgan Community College.