2013 is off to a relatively strong start compared to the post-recovery average. Since the recovery began in late 2009, January and February have been relatively slow months for used truck sales, followed by a relatively strong March and April.

Preliminary February results show 5.9 trucks retailed and 1.7 trucks wholesaled per rooftop. Compared to January, February’s retail result was 0.4 trucks (or 6.3%) lower, while the wholesale result was 0.2 trucks (or 11.8%) higher (see graph).

The first two months of 2013 averaged 6.1 retail and 1.6 wholesale, which are 0.1 trucks (or 1.6%) higher and 0.3 trucks (or 18.8%) higher than same-period 2012, respectively. 2013 is currently leading the calendar year 2012 average by 0.1 trucks (or 1.6%) on the retail side and 0.2 trucks (or 12.5%) on the wholesale side.

The big limiting factor on the supply side is the lack of used equipment with under 600K miles, which could be partly responsible for the recent uptick in wholesale volume. The big limiting factor on the demand side is of course the ongoing political stalemate over national fiscal issues, which continues to encourage extremely cautious investment.

New truck orders have been strong since last October, which is perhaps a better indicator of general industry confidence than used truck sales. It is probable that the industry (and the country as a whole) is becoming comfortable with the “new normal” of political inaction combined with 11th-hour stopgap measures. The sequester is official, but there are still measures the Legislative and Executive branches can take to limit immediate impact. The industry may be betting on this outcome.