Despite the fact that the second quarter's new vehicle registrations showed slight improvement from the first quarter, Polk Commercial Vehicle Solutions has reduced its Index of U.S. Commercial Vehicle Activity for the 2009 calendar year, according to the June issue of Polk's Commercial Vehicle Market Intelligence Report.

Following the first quarter results, Polk predicted registrations for 2009 would be about 367,500 units, but lowered that expectation to 332,000 after analyzing the numbers from the second quarter. To achieve this 332,000 level, conditions in the commercial truck market will have to improve during the latter half of the year.

Meanwhile, the report says new vehicle registrations actually increased in the second quarter to 85,000 units, versus 73,300 for the first quarter of 2009.

"As noted earlier, while New Commercial Vehicle Registrations actually increased 12,000 units in the second quarter of the 2009 calendar year versus the first quarter of the calendar year, this increase was significantly less than should have occurred and therefore the Index took a significant decline," the report said.

Polk says these low levels have not been seen since 1991, when new registrations totaled 326,800 units. Since Polk has been collecting data on new registrations, there has never been a two-month consecutive period where levels have been under 25,000 units, as it was this May and June.

Using the monthly and calendar-year-to-date annualized numbers, Polk can determine whether the market is getting stronger, weaker or stabilizing, in order to anticipate directional trends.

New commercial vehicle registrations were down 36.5 percent in the second quarter and down 40 percent for the first six months of 2009, from the comparable periods of 2008. For the month of June, registrations slipped 36.9 percent from June 2008.

All classes experienced lower monthly levels from June 2008. New registrations in June were below their 2008 levels in all classes. The lowest decline was experienced in the Class 6 market, which was down 55.7 percent from June 2008. Class 4 dropped 49.6 percent from June 2008, while Class 8 slipped 33.6 percent for the same period.

For the first half of the year, Class 8 new vehicle registrations settled at 45,470, a 33.1 percent drop from a year ago. For the past five months, Class 8 registrations have been around 7,400 units, a level not experienced since 1987, Polk says.

While all the manufacturers were down when comparing their year-to-date registrations, International was the least in trouble, with registrations down 17.5 percent year to date. In comparison, Isuzu's registrations were down 53.8 percent year to date from 2008.

While the new commercial vehicle market did not fare well, the used commercial vehicle market saw an increase of 33.1 percent in the second quarter of 2009, when compared to the 2008 period. In comparison to the first quarter, the April-June period saw a boost of 34.4 percent in used truck activity. Polk attributes the increases to the number of large fleets cycling out of equipment in all markets, except Class 8.