Used trucks were selling like hotcakes last year and the sales pace for both used and new trucks in 2011 suggests that trucking operations are committed to updating their aging fleets. The proof is in the numbers: Commercial vehicle (CV) data tracking and services firm Polk reported this week that its latest analysis of new and used CV (Class 3-8)  sales in the U.S. shows that 1.25- million units were registered during the 2011 calendar year. That total includes used-CV registrations of 791.288 units.

The used-CV sales performance marks a record level for used sales in a calendar year, according to Polk, surpassing the previous record of 671,887 units registered in 2010—which amounts to 17.8% YoY increase in registrations.

And 2011 ranks third in the total number of CV registrations in a single calendar year since Polk began tracking this information in 2004. The current record of total CV registrations in a calendar year is 1.35 million units, set in 2005.

“Good quality used commercial vehicles continue to be in high demand, as shown by the record level of used vehicle transactions reported during each of the first three quarters 2011,” said Gary Meteer, account director for commercial vehicle solutions at Polk.

“This strong demand for both new and used commercial vehicles is a positive sign that businesses feel comfortable enough about their plans to update older equipment,” Meteer added. “The close of the 2011 calendar year is a solid foundation on which to build for 2012.”

However, Meteer pointed out that Polk’s analysis of fourth quarter 2011 activity “shows evidence of a shortage of good clean equipment.” He said that fourth-quarter used registrations were down 4.1% from the comparable quarter in 2010. And Class 8 used registrations during the fourth quarter of the 2011 calendar year were down 22% from the same quarter a year before.

According to Polk, its process for used CV reporting is unique, “as it requires both a change in the business name and address of the vehicle registration to be counted as a used registration.”

In all categories except Class 8, used registrations for 2011 were significantly higher than in the 2010 calendar year (see Table below). Registrations among used Class 3-7 vehicles were higher in 2011 than in 2010. What’s more, the increase in calendar year registrations since 2010 ranged from a high of 53.5% for Class 4 vehicles to a low of 4.8% for Class 7 vehicles.

 

 

                                Polk:  USED CV Registrations Calendar Year 2011

VIN-Defined Gross Vehicle Weight

2011 Calendar Year Registrations

Percentage Change from 2010 Calendar Year Registrations

2011 Calendar Year Percentage Share of Used Commercial Vehicle Market

GVW 3

229,009

49.1

28.9

GVW 4

71,931

53.5

9.1

GVW 5

38,900

48.4

4.9

GVW 6

71,966

31.8

9.1

GVW 7

73,966

4.8

9.4

GVW 8

305,516

-4.5

38.6

TOTAL

791,288

17.8

 

100.0

 

“This strong demand for both new and used commercial vehicles is a positive sign that businesses feel comfortable enough about their plans to update older equipment,” Meteer added. “The close of the 2011 calendar year is a solid foundation on which to build for 2012.”

Also important to note is that strong demand for used Class 8 trucks is pushing up their prices even as the supply of “clean” late-model equipment dwindles. Indeed,  ACT Research Co. president & senior analyst Kenny Vieth has stated he sees “a wide gap between new and used truck prices in a credit-constrained market. This suggests that the cyclical peak we would expect to see in 2013 is likely to be muted… [and therefore we see] stronger demand now stretching through 2014.”

Vieth told FleetOwner that prices for used trucks are now being driven up by the higher demand for them. “Used truck prices continue to rise,” he pointed out. “There’s no let-up on increased valuations of 15% to 20% more on a YoY basis. And bear in mind that late-model inventory comes from recent retail sales and sales of new trucks dropped sharply starting in 2007.”

According to Vieth, the average retail price for a 4-6 year-old truck in January 2010 was $36,600. A year later, that price climbed to $48,600 and this January it soared to $58,100.