Two separate reports show orders for new commercial trucks in North America were good through the first two months of the year.

ACT Research says Class 8 preliminary net orders for February rose month over month and year-over-year, narrowly besting October 2012 to reach their highest reading since January 2012. Medium duty orders exhibited strong growth, ACT says.

The final numbers, which will be released mid-March, will approach 23,300 units for heavy-duty Class 8 and 16,400 for medium duty Classes 5-7 vehicles and trucks.

“With Class 8 build in February below 20,000 units, backlogs should rise once again. On a seasonally adjusted basis, February’s Class 8 net orders were 22,900 units, in a dead heat for the best reading in the past year,” said Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst with ACT Research. “Medium-duty orders easily outpaced both January 2013 and February 2012. February’s volume was up 13% versus last year. Similar to the Class 8 market, Classes 5-7 net orders above February’s build expectations suggests backlogs are likely to have moved higher.”

The report follows one about January in which ACT Research described Class 8 orders as the second best in 12 months with medium duty moving steadily higher.

A report from FTR Associates sounded a similar but slightly downbeat note. It says preliminary data shows February Class 8 truck net orders at 23,011, a 4% increase over both January and the prior year. It says orders for Class 8 vehicles have been consistently above the 20,000 mark since October 2012 with an annualized rate of 263,600 units over the last three months. 

“In February we saw a year-over-year improvement in orders, which is a positive development," said Jonathan Starks, director of transportation analysis for FTR. "The modestly robust freight environment that we are currently in is being reflected in truck orders as carriers purchase needed replacements. Since we are at the tail end of the typical ordering season, we see no indication that the market will get above those replacement levels during 2013.”

A month ago in releasing FTR numbers, Starks described January as “improving” but noted orders were still below where they should be for a solid recovery.