Preliminary March data indicates that the Class 8 sleeper market ticked up a bit on slightly lower average mileage. Four-year-old sleeper tractors were also up notably despite higher mileage. Dealer sales volume? Comparable to the best months of 2011.

Like last year, selected economic measures have slowed their rate of improvement going in to the 2nd quarter. However, also like last year, the economy on average continues to slowly improve. In the final analysis, the biggest factor limiting growth is “uncertainty.” There are many factors contributing to this uncertainty – some legitimate, some a little ridiculous – but at the end of the day, if a factory continues to receive orders, it’s not going to curtail production because it’s afraid of the European debt crisis.

Like everyone else, we have been watching new truck order rate, which to date in 2012 lags the 2011 average by just under 25%. However, keep in mind that there was a degree of artificial inflation to the second half of 2011 due to the impending expiration of the Section 179 tax benefits. New truck sales have been healthy in the first quarter of 2012, indicating that buyers have no problem taking delivery of these units. And given the high price of new trucks, late-model used trucks continue to be the fallback plan. With used truck pricing at historically high levels, there does not appear to be any decrease in demand, economic “uncertainty” or not.