New truck sales (deliveries) were closely correlated to used retail sleeper tractor pricing from late 2009 through mid-2012. Since mid-2012, these two indicators have diverged, with sales trending generally downward, and pricing initially stable and then sharply upward. See graph below for detail.

An increase in the proportion of 2009-2011 model year trucks sold is primarily responsible for the increased pricing. These model years were severely impacted by the recession, representing a substantial decrease in build rate compared to the 2006 and 2007 model years (2008 was also a low-build model year, but that was due as much to the addition of DPF’s as the impending recession). 2009-2011 trucks feature low mileage, and thanks to the low build rate, are not available to the secondary market in great numbers. At the same time, this cohort is now 3-5 years old, which means they are entering their prime trade-in age. As such, any trucks that become available command a high price.

So how does all this relate to new truck sales? With new trucks more expensive than any time in recent history, low-mileage used trucks  - even at historically high prices - remain an attractive substitute. New truck orders and sales are dependent on an economy that is subject to fluctuating degrees of business and consumer confidence. Used trucks remain the safe bet.