Tightening Capacity, Improving Economy Triggers Truck Orders

Tightening Capacity, Improving Economy Triggers Truck Orders

Demand for new trucks and other equipment is rising as the economy improves and capacity tightens, surveys by two vehicle market research firms report.

CK Commercial Vehicle Research said fleet operators are feeling much better about buying equipment and putting parked trucks back into service.

Its Fleet Sentiment Buying Index rose 18 percent in April to 64.6 from January, with 33.3 percent of its private and government fleet participants saying they plan to place orders for power units in the next three months and 28.9 percent planning trailer orders.

That followed a 21 percent drop in the FSR Buying Index in January.

“The responses we received in April to all our questions were generally more positive than in January,” said Chris Kemmer of CKCVR.

One sign of that strength is the order of 5,000 Class 8 Navistar trucks by J.B. Hunt Transport Services, the Lowell, Ark.-based intermodal trucker.

The Columbus, Ohio-based firm also saw a reduction in the number of vehicles reported as parked, improved utilization rates and a closer alignment of freight and capacity.

“However, there is still much caution being shown especially as it relates to the purchase of new power equipment with 2010 emissions engines," Kemmer said.

Rapidly tightening capacity led ACT Research to increase its forecast for heavy-duty truck production this year by 6,000 units, raising year-over-year growth to 19 percent in the latest release of its North American Commercial Vehicle Outlook.

“Fleet age has truckers increasingly making comments about upgrading the fleet,” said John Burton, vice president of the transportation sector at ACT Research, Columbus, Ind.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests reserve capacity is in poor shape, having been idled and cannibalized during the downturn,” Burton said.

-- Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com.