Photo: Evan Lockridge

Photo: Evan Lockridge

Demand for commercial vehicles in the U.S. and Canada continues to strengthen, though used commercial vehicle registrations still outnumber new registrations.

That’s according to Gary Meteer, director, commercial vehicle solutions for vehicle industry analyst firm IHS Automotive, during a presentation about the state of the commercial vehicle market on Wednesday at the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo in Las Vegas.

Not surprisingly, the business community largely drives the recovery in the commercial vehicle market in the U.S. and Canada, according to Meteer. U.S. businesses account for more than 90% of new vehicle registrations so far this year, according to IHS Automotive, and the south and central regions of the country are the strongest markets, representing more than 62% of new vehicle registrations so far in 2014

In Canada, the four provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec account for more than 87% of new commercial vehicle registrations and additional growth is expected.

Age of Fleets on the Rise

Class 8 vehicles continue to dominate both the U.S. and Canadian commercial vehicle markets, with more than a 50% share of new registrations in the U.S. and even greater share in Canada, at more than 60%, according to IHS figures.

The company also reported with more than 7.7 million commercial vehicles on the road in the U.S., the market here is at its highest levels since the Great Recession. There are more than one million Class 4 through Class 8 vehicles in operation in Canada, with Ontario and Quebec provinces accounting for almost half of the total commercial vehicles in operation in the country.

IHS Automotive also reported that the average age of commercial vehicles in the fleet is shifting. In 2007, the average age among Class 4 through Claass 8 vehicles was 12.5 years, but today it is 14.7 years, with Class 6 vehicles averaging 20.9 years, the highest in the fleet. Conversely, Class 5 vehicles are younger now with an average age of 11.9 years, the youngest in the commercial fleet.

“However, with the overall market recovery, Class 5 straight trucks and chassis cabs have been in high demand for modifications and use in the wholesale, retail and service industries,” Meteer said. “In the current calendar year, the demand for Class 5 vehicles is at record levels.”

Small Fleets Make up Majority of the Market; Class-8 Still King

Over 48% of the commercial vehicle population of Class 6 through Class 8 vehicles in the U.S. is owned by small fleets, compared to about 22% of new registrations. According to IHS Automotive, this speaks to the ongoing strong demand for clean used vehicles that are used by small and medium-size businesses to handle their business needs with Class 4 vehicles being the most prominent.

Medium-size fleets, defined as those with 11 to 500 commercial vehicles, account for 32% of all commercial vehicles, while Class 7 vehicles lead among medium fleet owners. For fleets with more than 501 commercial vehicles, Class 7 vehicles are most prominent, with Class 8 following close behind.

Overall, Class 8 vehicles still reign on the roads, with a 43% share of U.S. commercial vehicle population.

Leasing Continues Growing

The industry has experienced a dramatic shift in leasing and rentals of new commercial vehicles, according to IHS. Today, just over 40% of Class 6 vehicles are leased, compared to less than 30% in the 2000-2013 timeframe. Leasing rates for Class 4 vehicles have also substantially increased, from less than 20% in 2000-2013 to more than 30% today. Class 7 leasing is up marginally, from 15.1% from 2000-2013 to 19.5% in 2014 while Class 5 through Class 8 have remained relatively flat over the same time period.

The renewed strength of the rental/leasing segment of the commercial vehicle market is a good sign that business owners are positive about their business needs and the ongoing demand for their services, said IHS