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Heavy-Truck Orders Move Higher, Used Truck Market Stabilizes, Caution Over Trailers

March 26, 2013

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Three separate new reports paint a picture of healthy new heavy truck sales and an improving used-truck market, but a market for trailers that is still relatively weak.

ACT Research, which publishes commercial vehicle data and provides forecasting services, says new orders for heavy-trucks rose above 20,000 units for a fifth consecutive month in February, while a surge in step-van orders pushed new medium-duty demand above the prevailing trend.

This updated status of the North America commercial vehicle market was included in the “State of the Industry” report, which covers Classes 5 through 8 vehicles for the North American market.

“Class 8 net orders rose to just over 23,000 units,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “February was the first month in the past fourteen in which orders rose above year-ago levels. Demand for Classes 5-7 trucks, buses and RVs were generally in line, but step-van orders boosted total orders in February."

Meantime, the used truck market found solid footing in February after getting off to a shaky start at the beginning of 2013. Volumes for both the retail and wholesale markets grew month over month. However, the auction market dropped once again. The update on the used market was reported in the latest release of the “State of the Industry: U.S. Classes 3-8 Used Trucks.”

“It is interesting to note that mileage and age of used trucks did not move in sync in February. Typically mileage and age move in tandem, but in February mileage increased month over month while average age decreased," says Steve Tam, vice president-commercial vehicle sector with ACT. “Prices, more often than not, move in the opposite direction. With the split this month, age drove pricing."

Finally, a third report shows despite declining from January levels, February trailer commercial orders were strong enough to maintain industry backlogs. ACT says caution, but not retrenchment, seemed to be the watchword for the trailer industry in February, as the month started softly and then picked up momentum. This update on industry performance was reported in the latest “State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers."

“Total new orders for trailers were just under 20,000 units, down 8% month over month, while net orders of 18,160 were down 11%,” says Frank Maly, Director-CV Transportation with ACT Research. “Cancellations for most trailer categories continued to be benign." The industry ended February with a 6% increase in inventory.

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