Preliminary data shows October Class 8 truck orders around 23,000 units - the highest since January.

FTR Associates, Nashville, Ind., puts the number at at 22,760, 50% higher than the previous month and much improved over third quarter averages, while ACT Research, Columbus, Inc., projects orders will approach 23,200 units for Class 8 trucks and 18,500 for medium duty Class 5-7 vehicles.

October 2012 orders boost the annualized rate for the past three months to 216,000 units, notes FTR, compared to a three-month annualized rate of just 174,400 units at the end of September.

"October net orders certainly came in at the high side of expectations and is the first month since very early in the years with good positive numbers," says Eric Starks, FTR president.

ACT Research says the improvement in orders comes on the heels of the recovery in consumer spending, strong housing data, and rising consumer confidence.

"Considering that the election and fiscal cliff were squarely in the windshield through October, order strength was perhaps even more impressive than the numbers suggest," says Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst, ACT Research. "The improvement in orders in October is recognition that with even a small amount of economic comfort, there is positive underlying demand for commercial vehicles in the North American market."

FTR, however, cautions that the high October orders were primarily driven by activity at one OEM. "Before this order activity can be sustained, we need to see a more industry-wide rising tide," Starks says.

Across-the-board strength in truck, bus, and RV orders boosted Classes 5-7 orders to a 56-month high, says ACT research. Seasonally adjusted, October's Classes 5-7 net order volume drops to 17,200 units. On that basis, Classes 5-7 net orders were at their highest level since April 2011.