Photo of 2011 Ram 3500 via Wikimedia.
Transactions of used commercial vehicles in the GVW 3-8 range remained near record levels for the 12-month period that ended March 31, according to recent analysis by IHS Automotive.
Overall, used GVW 3-8 transactions for the year that began on March 1, 2014 accounted for 51.7 percent of total GVW 3-8 transactions in the U.S. market.
Used transactions of 724,600 units were 6 percent above the previous year and trailed the most recent record level of 733,800 units by just 1.3 percent (which ended March 2011). At that time, used transactions accounted for 65 percent of combined GVW 3-8 vehicle transactions.
"The balance of supply versus demand plays heavily into the level of used transactions during a given period," said Gary Meteer, director of commercial vehicle solutions at IHS Automotive. "Today, demand for used GVW 3-8 equipment is extremely strong and availability is limited. The limited availability of clean 2009, 2010, and 2011 model-year equipment results from the significantly low demand for these vehicles when they were new."
Another reason for the uptick in used transactions is the high percentage of new transactions by large fleets operating 500-plus units (34 percent in the 2014 calendar year and 36 percent in the first quarter of the 2015 calendar year). This increase is a sign that demand and confidence are up and business is good, and that it will continue, according to IHS.
Traditionally, large fleets fuel the used truck market when they purchase new trucks because they typically trade out the older models, especially GVW 8 units. Up-time is a significant part of their cost equation and they can't risk downtown with the older models, Meteer added.
These clean, older models are taken out of service and moved to the secondary market where smaller companies purchase them. The number of used transactions for GVW 3-8 vehicles by quarter has moved in a rather narrow band of between 150,000 and 200,000 units since the end of the recession. Used transactions were especially strong during the recession as the availability of clean, lower priced (pre-emissions increase units) used units were available, especially pre-2007 models.
"There will always be demand for clean, used trucks in the secondary market," Meteer said. "The availability is the result of strong demand for new equipment resulting from a good economic outlook and the availability of equipment resulting from the registration of new equipment three to five years earlier."
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Used transactions traditionally run counter to new registrations during down periods. During periods when new registrations strengthen, used transactions remain strong though their share of total transactions traditionally declines. While large fleets account for the largest share of new transactions, once the vehicles go into the secondary market, small fleets account for more than 45 percent of vehicles in operation for GVW 3-8 vehicles.
"We estimate the level of used transactions in the 2015 calendar year will approximate 725 thousand, an increase of 2 percent from the level achieved during the 2014 calendar year," Meteer said.
If that happens, 2015 would represent the second-best year for used transactions since used transactions started to be collected.
"In addition, used transactions will remain tight due to availability, or the level of demand for used vehicles could go as high as 750 thousand," Meteer added.
New commercial vehicle registrations during 2008-2011 were at their lowest levels in the past 20 years. As a result, their availability in the used market now is extremely limited, especially GVW 8 vehicles the IHS analysis said.
Of all Class 3-8 vehicles, used commercial vehicle registrations in the 12 months ended March 2015 were strongest for Class 3 vehicles as they accounted for 31.1 percent of total used transactions and were up 8.6 percent from the comparable 12-month period a year earlier.