The American Truck Dealers division of the National Automotive Dealers Association is calling for the creation of a federal stimulus program to boost new truck sales and put cleaner, more fuel-efficient trucks on the road.

"Most analysts speculate the market will remain 'soft' for the foreseeable future," ATD wrote in a letter to President Obama. "This slowdown in demand has forced many final assembly plants, suppliers and commercial truck dealers to lay off thousands of workers."

The letter, signed by a coalition of heavy- and medium-duty truck makers and industry associations, outlines why stimulus is needed now, as U.S. truck retailing slowly recovers from historically low sales in 2009 and new 2010 emissions standards have added as much as $13,000 to the cost of a new truck.

Together with the economic downturn, costly 2010 emission standards are forcing trucking companies and owner-operators to hang on to their older trucks for longer, ATD said, causing safety concerns and undermining the administration's efforts to curb emissions and improve air quality.

"Simply put, until the economy begins to demonstrate signs of continued growth and stability, trucking companies will not commit to purchase any of these more expensive trucks," the letter states.

ATD leaders, including Chairman Kyle Treadway and Vice Chairman Dick Witcher, have drafted a proposal being distributed to members of Congress, which institutes a short-term 10 percent investment tax credit on the purchase of Class 8 trucks with engines meeting 2010 emissions regulations. It also includes a "green voucher" of $6,000-$8,000 for the purchase of Class 6 and 7 trucks, totaling no more than $3 billion.

"We're building a coalition of support for these federal tax incentives to make sure the trucks on the road are cleaner, greener and safer," Witcher said.