Photo:Jim Park.

Photo:Jim Park.

The first half of 2017 has been good to the trucking industry, and to the vocational market in particular, and the going into the second half of the year, the underlying economic fundamentals look equally promising. That's the view from Kirkland, Wash., where Paccar vice president and Kenworth general manager Mike Dozier addressed reporters at a press event on July 21.

"Whether you're talking vocational or just the market in general in North America, the underlying fundamentals all remain very positive," Dozier said. "There's a very strong alignment between what we're seeing in terms of sentiment within the industry and factors like growth in GDP and the associated rise in consumer confidence. We expect that to continue throughout the year." 

Dozier noted that certain key indicators, namely total construction spending and housing starts, trend closely to actual growth in retail orders for the company's T880 vocational chassis.

Earlier this year, Kenworth had forecast retail sales of 190,000 to 220,000 units. At the time, Dozier among others was a bit worried that the situation might change as the post-election hangover wore off, but it hasn't. In fact, Dozier said consumer confidence remains strong-- and the market remains buoyant.

"Earlier in the year, I would have said we were in the lower range of the estimate band," he said. "But today, with half the year still ahead of us, we are in the upper range of that band. That bodes well for the remainder of the year."

Internally, Dozier said the Paccar MX engine now accounts for just over 45% of engine orders across all Class 8 lines — on-highway and vocational. "We are happy with the growth we've seen so far, and we expect to end 2017 with 160,000 MX engines in service," he said.

The Kenworth dealer network continues to grow. There were 382 North American dealers at the end of 2016 with more than 4,700 service bays. Plans call for over 400 dealers by the end of 2017.

"The vocational market has been a terrific positive throughout the course of the year," Dozier said in summary, "and we're looking for that to continue for the rest of the year. We're hearing and we're seeing it in orders. Customers are telling us they are very pleased with how their years are progressing so far."

*Correction: Post originally said Kenworth's headquarters was in Renton, Wash. It has been corrected to Kirkland.