Las Vegas.  With orders slowing after a fast start, truck sales in North America “are too good to complain, but not good enough to dance on the table,” according to Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA).

Class 6-8 sales for this year will total 332,000 trucks, up 9% from last year’s 305,000, he said at a press briefing during the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) annual management conference and exhibition. 

Going into the year, DTNA forecast U.S. Class 8 sales at 205,000 trucks, a significant increase over the 171,000 sold in 2011. With order intake unexpectedly strong in the spring, the company raised that forecast to 219,000.  But as orders softened in the last four months to “significantly below average,” Daum said they now see the year ending with heavy truck sales at 185,000.

Taking the long view, Daum predicted the NAFTA market will continue to see slow growth with annual Class 6-8 sales averaging 375,000 trucks for 2010 to 2020.  By comparison, the annual average was 362,500 in the last decade and 346,000 in the 1990s.

Calling himself “cautiously optimistic” about 2013, Daum said he was confident that with continued strength in freight volumes and the pressure of deferred replacement by fleets, the market “will get to that long term average” for this decade. “We don't know when [the higher sales will start], only that they will start one day,” he said.