The annual Heavy-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates ranks Kenworth Truck Co. as the top OEM in three categories and awards Freightliner the remaining top slot. More telling about trucking overall, the research firm’s survey indicates an increasing reluctance among truck users to buy new equipment over the next 12 months.
The latest J.D. Power’s survey ranked Kenworth highest in heavy-duty truck customer satisfaction in the over-the-road segment for the fifth consecutive year. It also slotted the OEM as highest in the pickup and delivery segment, as well as highest in Class 8 dealer service. In the vocational truck segment, Freightliner ranked highest.
Peterbilt and Freightliner, respectively, followed Kenworth in the pickup and delivery truck segment rankings, with Kenworth and Western Star, respectively, following Freightliner in the vocational truck segment.
Brian Etchells, senior research manager of the commercial vehicle practice at J.D. Power, said the study found that the percentage of Class 8 customers who say they “definitely will” purchase a new Class 8 truck in the next 12 months declined to 16% this year, down from 25% in 2008—marking the lowest purchase intention level since 2002.
“Freight tonnage continues to decline, and fleets are increasing the length of time they keep their trucks operating—both of which lower demand for new trucks,” he said. “While impending new emissions standards often create pull-ahead sales, a 2009 pre-buy seems unlikely, even amid improving diesel prices and some signs that the economic recession is slowing.”
Chris Kuehl, economic analyst for the National Association of Credit Management (NACM), noted that “positive” economic signs are showing up in a variety of areas, from the manufacturing to service sectors, and that available capital for lending continues to grow.
For the sixth straight month, the NACM Credit Managers’ Index (CMI) continued to increase, with the July index reaching 48 – now much closer to the magic number of 50, which would signal an economic expansion is taking place.
“Over the last two months, the dominant economic debate has focused on whether the recession has already ended, is ending now or is in the process of ending,” Kuehl said. “The data coming from the housing sector is generally very positive with sales of both existing and new homes up. There are improvements in some of the manufacturing indicators, and some data suggests overseas sales have been improving. At the same time, there are concerns about the continued high rate of unemployment and the lingering impact of the downturn.”
Those concerns are helping to keep a lid on equipment demand in trucking, according to the quarterly Fleet Sentiment Report (FSR) Buying Index compiled by CK Commercial Vehicle Research (CKVCR).
In the third quarter of this year, CKVCR reported that its FSR Buying Index, which tracks planned buying behavior of for-hire, private and government fleets, rose just 1% from its adjusted second quarter reading to 89.0. CKVCR added that in July, 48% of participants in the Q3 2009 survey indicated they were planning to place orders for power equipment, while 39% were planning to place trailer orders during the next three months.
While this is the highest reading for the index since Q3 2008, the size of the planned orders remains small – calculated at 4.2% of the response group's power unit population and just 2.6% of their trailer population.