Rusty Rush talks about the importance of service during the Rush Tech Rodeo. Photo courtesy Rush.

Rusty Rush talks about the importance of service during the Rush Tech Rodeo. Photo courtesy Rush.

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS -- Rush Truck Center CEO Rusty Rush said he expects to see a flat year in Class 8 over-the-road sales in 2017, but predicts that certain market segments and medium duty sales will remain strong.

Rush spoke to journalists in San Antonio ahead of the company's 2016 Tech Rodeo Banquet Dinner and said he thinks current projections putting 2017 Class 8 sales down by 20% are accurate. "I think that number is pretty close to being right," Rush said. "We're looking at around 154,000 units next year."

Rush said low used truck values are pushing fleets to extend purchase terms and hold onto vehicles longer.

"I don't see used truck values getting any better in the first half of next year," Rush said. "Maybe by the end of the year. But, if the electronic logging device mandate comes into play, it could take even more trucks out of the market and those could turn into used trucks. And we need the import market to improve. We need to be chewing up a lot of inventory right now -- and there's a lot of it sitting on the sidelines right now."

Rush thinks certain Class 8 segments, particularly construction, refuse and housing, will be strong next year, as will the medium-duty market of Classes 4 through 7.

Looking at his own company, Rush said continued growth, including some limited expansions, will be the mission.

"We feel pretty good from a facility perspective today because of the investments we made in 2014 and 2015," he said. "And we'll continue to expand our footprint where it makes sense. We want to put more dots on the map and create a larger service network to support our customers. So we continue to look for opportunities that make sense. And that includes opening some small stores in smaller markets."

No matter what the new year brings, however, Rush stressed that his commitment to service remains unwavering.

"We understand that when it comes to technicians, it all starts with training," Rush said. "If you have the best trained techs out there, you should be able to win the game when it comes to keeping your customers on the road.

"This is a cyclical business with a lot of ups and downs, but no matter how things are going, technician training is the last thing I would touch from a cost perspective. Fleets today don't have the diagnostic equipment and the technician training to keep their trucks running at times. And many of them want to do business with us because this is what we do: We don't haul freight, or pick up refuse or work in oil fields. We fix trucks. That's what we're good at. That's our expertise. And that is going to require continued investment on our part, because technology breeds complexity."