The Class 4 truck market now dominated by low-cab forward (LCF) trucks used primarily for urban delivery and landscaping jobs should grow 3 percent in 2014 and reach about 12,000 new vehicles registered for commercial use, ACT Research told Work Truck magazine.
If the forecast holds from Steve Tam, ACT's vice president of the commercial vehicle sector, the Class 4 market would record its second year of growth following a post-recession-plagued 2012 where only 9,500 units were registered and the class reached its lowest point since the high-water mark of 2007 when 51,000 Class 4 units entered commercial service.
The uptick in Class 4 represents some life in a class that has thinned out in terms of truck offerings as fleets more frequently opt for less expensive Class 3 truck or a Class 5 truck that provides more capabilities, Tam said.
"Fleets are shaving some of the capability or weight off of those conventional chassis cabs and moving down to Class 3, or going the other direction and adding to their capacity and making them Class 5," said Tam. "We're seeing a lightweighting; the medium- and light-duty customer is getting a lot more sophisticated in their spec'ing."
Through September of this year, fleets are registering Class 4 trucks mostly as cabovers by about a 2:1 margin, according to Tam. The lower one-third of the market is made up of Ford's chassis cab trucks and Navistar's TerraStar. Ford also offers the F-450 as a Class 4 pickup.
Cabover manufacturers such as Isuzu are seeing increased demand for its N-Series cabover, for example, even amid the right-sizing trend, said Pamela Mansfield, Isuzu's digital marketing specialist. By using a smaller truck, fleets can rack up savings not only in up-front purchase cost, but in fuel, insurance, taxes, and license fees.
"We've seen a lot of our customers switch from Class 6 to Class 5 and from Class 5 to Class 4 to save more money," Mansfield said. "They're trying to re-analyze their business to make sure the truck they use is right for their business."
By Paul Clinton