Judging by the sights and sounds-- chief among them being the positive words spoken by top executives of several major truck OEMs-- here at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, trucking suppliers are straining at the bit for the economy to let them return to winning form.
Amidst all the news conferences and "booth visits," fellow FleetOwner editor Wendy Leavitt and I had the chance to talk for a few-- too few-- minutes with Jim Hebe, sr. vp of North American sales operations for Navistar.
Navistar's Jim Hebe
We started off by getting his outlook on Class 8 truck sales (U.S. and Canada). He said the year would end up "5% plus or minus higher than '09," which he translated to mean a finish somewhere between 90,000 and 110,000 units.
But Hebe said for medium-duty sales he expects the "raw" figure (which excludes school buses, stripped-down chassis, and severe-service models) will leap from 47,000 units in '09 to 60,000 units this year.
“We’ll see a medium-duty uptick thanks largely to leasing companies coming back into the market after holding off buying new units for two years,” he noted.
Turning to Class 4/5, which Navistar so views as a growth market it has rolled out the new TerraStar truck to serve it, Hebe said what "we do with these [weight class] trucks has changed in this country. It [Class 4/5] is no longer all about buyers moving up into Class 4 or 5 from smaller trucks or downsizing from Class 6 because they needed more or less truck.
Class 4/5 TerraStar
"Rather," he continued, "the distribution-type Class 6-7 customer has gone away. Now, goods that arrive at retail stores are more often delivered by the truckload. Even to restaurants it's being done this way."
On the other hand, he went on, "you can't underestimate the growth of small businesses using trucks to carry out new services; everything from landscaping to plumbing. A Class 4 or 5 truck is what these buyers need."
Turning to the now seemingly endless to-SCR-or-not debate, Hebe told us that as Navistar continues on with its current "advanced EGR" solution for 2010 emissions, the manufacturer does not rule out deploying other emission strategies or technologies.
"Down the road, it could be further optimization of EGR or some alternative technology or some combination of EGR and something else that we use [for compliance]," Hebe said. "But," he added emphatically, "the solution won't include using liquid DEF."