New commercial vehicle registrations for Class 3-8 vehicles for 2011 numbered 460,948 units, an 23.3% increase 373,975 units in 2010, according to Polk's Quarterly Commercial Vehicle Report.

Compared to 2009, registrations are up 39.9%. However, compared to the high point achieved in 2006, new registrations of commercial vehicles are still down 345,000 units.

For the month of December, new registrations of commercial vehicles in Class 3-8 were up 10.9% from December 2010. This, however, represented the lowest month-over-month performance for 2011. During the 2011 calendar year, August represented the month with the highest level of new registrations of commercial vehicles.

With the exception of a small decline in the new registrations of Class 7 vehicles (0.3%), the new registrations of the vehicles in each weight class grew when compared to 2010. New registrations saw a 38.2% increase for Class 8 vehicles and a 20.3% increase for Class 3 vehicles. Class 3 and Class 8 vehicles combined to account for more than 66% of commercial vehicle new registrations, up from 63.5% in 2010.

In January 2011, new registrations for Class 3 vehicles reached their highest level since January 2008, but fell back in February and showed steady and consistent growth after that. Some of the month-to-month variance in Class 3 new registrations was the result of continued growth by Dodge, GMC and Chevrolet.

Class 8 vehicles started the 2011 calendar year flat compared to 2010 but showed solid and continued growth the rest of the year. The last five months of the 2011 calendar year were at or above 14,000 units for the first time since June 2007.

Combined new and used registrations of Class 3-8 trucks totaled 1.25 million units, a 19.7% increase from 2010. New commercial vehicle registrations accounted for 36.9% of total commercial vehicles registered during the 2011 calendar year, up from 35.8% reported for 2010.

The demand for used commercial vehicles during 2011 represents a record level of transactions, surpassing the previous record set in 2010, reports Polk. Although total demand for used commercial vehicles was at a record high, the number of used Class 8 transactions actually fell from 2010, down 4.5%. When just the fourth quarter of the 2011 calendar year is examined, Class 8 used transactions dropped 22% from 4Q 2010 and were at the lowest level since 4Q 2009.

The decline in Class 8 used transactions is the result of both the 38.2% year-over-year increase in new registrations of Class 8 vehicles as well as the tight availability of clean used Class 8 vehicles. With the strong level of Class 8 new registrations during the last five months of the 2011 calendar year, used Class 8 transactions in the first quarter of 2012 should return to a more normal level.