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December 22, 2010 11:40 AM, EST

Medium-Duty Truck Purchases Rose 30.4% in November

By Dan Leone, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Dec. 20 & 27 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

A total of 22,902 medium-duty trucks were sold in the United States during November, a year-over-year increase of 30.4% that was again propelled by Classes 3 and 5, WardsAuto.com reported.

The increase marked the 12th consecutive month in which sales of Class 3-7 trucks exceeded year-ago levels, Wards said Dec. 10.

Through the first 11 months of 2010, medium-duty sales were 241,414 units — 25.1% more than in the comparable period of 2009.

“In our own fleet we’ve been adding medium-duty lease vehicles,” said Richard Witcher, CEO of Minuteman Trucks, a Walpole, Mass., dealership that stocks International and Ford brand trucks. Minuteman has been “adding some trucks to replace older trucks that were out there,” Witcher said.

However, Witcher noted sales of some trucks are still slumping because of continuing economic weakness in businesses “that are primarily in support of the consumers’ market: building homes, taking septic waste away, delivering fuel oil, that sort of thing.”

Wards reported that, during November, sales of Class 7 trucks were 3,193 units, or 0.4% above the same month a year ago. Year to date, Class 7 sales have contracted 3.1% to 34,630 units.

Sales of Class 6 trucks, which include the box trucks often rented to drivers not needing CDLs, slid slightly in November, dipping 0.7% below year-ago levels to 1,997 units. Despite the drop, Class 6 sales are up strongly in the 11-month period — 31.8% to 26,832 units, compared with the 2009 tally.

Class 3, the largest medium-duty category by volume, posted the strongest sales gain in November, rising 56.2% from November 2009 to 14,111 units. Year to date, Class 3 sales are up 44% to 141,890.

Sales of Class 4 trucks, on the other hand, fell 55.7% from last November to 565 units. That kept the combined growth rate for Classes 4 and 5 sales almost flat, despite Class 5 sales rising 47.4% for the month.

Through November, Class 4 sales were down 35.2% to 11,231 units, but Class 5 sales were up 27.1% to 26,831 vehicles.

The medium-duty market “continues to be slower than we’d like to see,” said James Hartman, owner of Truck Enterprises in Harrisonburg, Va.

“In general, most of the small company buyers are not buying medium right now,” said Hartman, who is also American Truck Dealers’ line representative for the Kenworth brand. “There are some municipalities buying, but for the most part, people are conserving cash and still, I think, waiting until their confidence level in the economy is better.”