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October 26, 2018 9:30 AM, EDT

Tight Inventory Raises September Used Truck Prices

Used Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks on a sales lot Used Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks on a sales lot. (TruckPR/Flickr)

The sale price of the average Class 8 used truck jumped 13% in September amid ongoing demand for trucks in a market where freight is plentiful and capacity is tight, ACT Research Co. reported.

The average price was $46,626 compared with $41,300 a year earlier, according to ACT, which surveys dealers, wholesalers and auctioneers as well as a few large fleets, to determine average prices, age and mileage.

On a year-to-date basis, prices are up 9% to $43,933 compared with $40,400 a year earlier.

Sales hit 21,800, about flat with the year earlier when they were 22,100.

“We have talked about how the perception of inventory has shifted,” ACT Vice President Steve Tam said. “A year or a year-and-a-half ago, it was too much inventory keeping pressure on prices. Now it is the opposite. We continue to whittle away at inventory with strong demand. That has really been what’s keeping prices elevated.”

Year-to-date sales increased to 209,200 compared with 201,700 a year earlier, according to ACT.

Part of that demand is coming from former owner-operators returning to the industry since rates and freight are high, Tam said.

“They are going and buying used equipment. They know there’s a shortage of trucks and drivers. So they know there is an opportunity there to go and make some money,” he said.

Paccar Inc. in its third-quarter earnings release called recent demand for used trucks buoyant.

Used truck values increased more than 10% in the third quarter compared with the same period last year for its Kenworth Truck Co. and Peterbilt Motors Co. brands, Paccar Senior Vice President Bob Bengston said in a release.

Meanwhile, the average age and mileage were slightly lower in September, Tam said.

Mileage fell to 445,000 compared with 449,000 in the 2017 period.

But since the beginning of the year, the mileage trend has been upward, he said. “In January, we were at 434,000 miles.”

The age of the average truck was 6 years, 8 months compared with 6 years, 11 months a year earlier.

Chris Visser

Visser

At the same time, the average pricing for late-model trucks pulled back slightly month-over-month as a higher volume of lower-priced models filtered through the market, Chris Visser, senior analyst for commercial vehicles at J.D. Power, wrote in a blog.

The average sleeper tractor retailed in September was 6 years, 8 months old, had 455,658 miles, and brought $56,414.

Compared with a year earlier, “this average sleeper was one month newer, had 11,620 or 2.5% fewer miles and brought $9,470 or 20.2% more money,” Visser wrote.

International Truck has been in recent discussions with fleets that were looking at when the trade values on used trucks might decline and whether to trade now to get ahead of any upturn in used truck volumes that would cut prices, said Steve Gilligan, Navistar Inc. vice president of product marketing.

“The fact that they are going to get better fuel economy with the latest trucks and that the resale values are fairly strong right now, fleets are considering bringing down the average age of their trucks,” he said.

Class 8 sales per dealership fell back below the threshold of five trucks per rooftop, coming in at 4.9 and matching the year-to-date average.

The figure is mildly behind expectations, according to Visser.

“We still see the volume of trades increasing incrementally going forward,” he said.