Net orders for heavy-duty trucks shot up 91 percent in April, as fleets began placing orders for trucks compliant with 2010 federal emissions rules, ACT Research said.
"From top to bottom, April was a healthy month for the Class 8 segment, at least in relative terms," said Kenny Vieth, ACT partner and senior analyst.
New orders were spread over the next three quarters, indicating that truck operators are beginning to cycle out older equipment and replace it with more expensive 2010 models.
That reflects gathering strength in the freight economy, with truckload and less-than-truckload carriers reporting significant gains in volume in March and April.
"If orders surprise on the high side again in May, it could have upscale implications for our forecasts for the remainder of 2010 and 2011," said Vieth.
Several companies announced large Class 8 orders in late May. Western Express is buying 900 Freightliner Cascadia tractors with DD15 engines from Detroit Diesel, while Boyd Bros. Transportation ordered 325 International ProStar trucks from Navistar.
One of the biggest orders last month came from Penske Truck Leasing, which ordered 600 VN670 tractors from Volvo and 750 Freightliner Cascadia tractors in May.
"This continues our commitment to going green, reducing our carbon footprint, and the EPA SmartWay program," said Wayne Wise, president and CEO of Western Express.
"We delayed our purchase of new tractors in anticipation of this new technology," Wise said, referring to Detroit Diesel's BlueTec emissions technology.
All the fleet operators said they anticipated achieving better fuel economy and greater savings with the 2010 trucks.
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