The improved economic environment in developing and developed economies is restoring business confidence and pushing up the global sales volumes of medium-heavy duty trucks, according to a new report.

Truck buyers are particularly looking for medium-heavy duty trucks with advanced telematics solutions, “green” powertrain technologies, and safety enhancement technologies, such as stability control systems, said the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan in its recent Overview of the Global Medium-Heavy Duty Truck Market in 2014.

“Trucks with connectivity technologies that facilitate vehicle-to-infrastructure, vehicle-to-vehicle, and related communications, in turn enhancing vehicle uptime, driver satisfaction, fleet efficiency, and safety are also gaining traction,” the group said. “In particular, this year will see a rising proliferation and offering of prognostics solutions that reduce vehicle down time and enhance mobile resource productivity”

The report says the sale of medium-heavy duty trucks, which stood at 2.76 million units worldwide in 2013, is expected to increase to 2.87 million by the end of 2014.

"The market will experience introduction of several global engine platforms and at least 15 new truck models," said Sandeep Kar, global director of automotive and transportation research at Frost & Sullivan. "With a change in truck sale models from transactional to relational formats, the market is expected to see a rise in investments in multiplexing technologies that facilitate the integration of soft technologies in trucks. Soft technologies and service/maintenance based solutions will drive greater revenue opportunities for truck makers in coming years."

The report goes on to say that connectivity enabled through telematics is fast emerging as a major focal point for OEMs in differentiating their trucks from competitors. This along with driver health, wellness, and well-being focused technologies will create foundations for long-term structural changes in truck design and development.

"Both trends of connectivity and a focus on technologies dealing with driver health, wellness and wellbeing will permeate in force to developing markets by the end of this decade," added Kar.

Diesel is expected to dominate the global medium-heavy truck market, according to the report, with 97% of units that will be sold in 2014 are expected to run on diesel. This is leading to truck original equipment manufacturers in developed and developing economies to concentrate efforts on rolling out diesel engines with improved fuel efficiency, power density, and emission reduction capabilities. At the same time, engine sizes are increasing in developing markets while developed markets are experiencing engine downsizing in the heavy-duty truck segment.

"While diesel retains its status as the industry's de facto fuel, natural gas fuelled trucks will account for roughly one percent of total medium-heavy truck sales this year," said Kar.

Frost & Sullivan said OEMs are focusing on developing value trucks that are priced 30% lower than premium trucks and 15% to 20% higher than low-cost trucks.

“These trucks are already making inroads in markets such as China, India and Russia, and are anticipated to grow at a rapid rate over this year,” the group said. “Although value trucks deliver better fuel economy, safety, comfort, convenience and lower total cost of ownership than low-cost trucks, the latter will continue to witness strong demand for the next 10 to 15 years.”

The company predicts this will result in a rise in urban logistics and “bricks-and-clicks” sales models will lead OEMs towards developing and delivering city logistics enabling medium-heavy duty trucks featuring a smaller powertrain footprint, faster loading/unloading access, and better connectivity with fleet hubs and infrastructure. Several city logistics focused truck variants will be in development and advanced introduction phase this year.

"Truck OEMs are launching digital e-retailing initiatives, such as website-based sales optimization, integration of digital marketing within existing dealership models, off-shore digitization, and lead generation through predictive analytics to gain more touch points with truck buyers and influence their purchase decisions," noted Kar. "They are also looking to adopt new technologies that can reduce operating expenses, as this will help them expand their customer base globally."