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Top 6 Fleet Trends in the Medium-Duty Truck Market

Medium-duty truck sales have declined sharply, as have resale values, due to the recession and the slowdown in new construction. Many fleets are extending service lives, which threatens to increase future maintenance costs.

August 2009, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

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Six key trends will determine Class 3-7 medium-duty truck lifecycle costs in the 2010 calendar-year. They are diesel prices, acquisition costs, resale, maintenance costs, replacement tire expense, and environmental regulatory requirements.

1 Diesel Price Trends

Diesel prices are the most significant factor that will influence operating costs in the 2010-CY. However, future diesel prices remain somewhat fuzzy. "Operating costs will track diesel prices. Pump prices have fallen 50 percent from the record highs of last year. The most recent (July) forecast from the Department of Energy projects CY2010 diesel prices at $2.79, just over $1/gallon less than the 2008 average price," said Steve Byrd, fleet services manager for PHH Arval. "We expect that the new emission requirements on the MY2010 diesels will impact fuel economy. Some manufacturers are claiming improved fuel efficiency with 2010 engines; we are anxious to see if real-world use bears this out. Of course, future oil prices will ultimately drive operating expense."

One possible harbinger of the future direction of diesel prices is the commodity futures market for diesel fuel.

"If the futures market is any indication, prices will be relatively flat over the next six months. This should result in the first quarter of the model-year being lower than MY2009, the second quarter trending higher, with the rest of the year close to MY2009," said John Bauer, manager, fleet analytics for Wheels Inc.

However, a return to improved economic conditions will likely cause upward pressure on diesel prices due to increased demand.

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