The demand for new trucks and buses will continue to ease through this year and next, then start a steady pace of expansion in 2002, predicts Economic Planning Associates.

The Smithtown, N.Y., research firm forecasts retail sales of 596,500 Class 3-8 trucks and buses this year, down 7.3% from 1999. The forecast for 2001 is 547,000 units, another 8.3% drop. But sales will turn upward in 2002, reaching 645,000 units by 2005.
Class 8 sales will take the biggest hit this year, falling to 219,000 units, 16.5% less than the record 262,316 units sold in 1999. EPA expects them to drop another 13% next year before starting a gradual climb to 230,000 units in 2005. Class 7 sales this year are forecast at 124,500 units, down 4.9% from last year, dropping another 5.6% in 2002, then increasing to 130,000 in 2005. Class 6 sales for 2000 are forecast at 57,500, up 19.5% from last year. EPA expects them to drop 9.6% this year then rise to 60,000 units in 2005.
EPA researchers say a steady stream of industry issues, like higher fuel costs and the driver shortage, plus a long anticipated economic slowdown continue to hamper the ability of motor carriers to buy new rolling stock.
Slowing retail sales will reduce truck volumes. At the same time, however, the rapid growth of Internet based sales should be a major contributor to freight volume for some time. EPA notes that online trade in the U.S. is expected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2004, up from $119 billion in 1999.
Housing activity is down from historically high levels, but strength in non-residential sectors should have a positive effect on freight volumes. Manufacturing should benefit from a number of economic developments, such as increased consumer e-commerce buying and growing export demand. Coal and grain movements are down but other commodity markets, such as steel and chemicals, are on the rise.
Overall, EPA expects truck traffic growth to be relatively flat this year compared to 1999 then increase 2% to 2.5% in 2001. Longer term, EPA researchers say economic expansion and annual increases in merchandise trade with other countries -- especially Mexico and Canada -- should keep truck traffic rising at an annual rate of 3% to 3.5% from 2002 through 2005.
For more information, contact Economic Planning Associates at (631) 864-4900 or e-mail EPACORP@AOL.COM.