-  Graphic by Armie Bautista.

Graphic by Armie Bautista.

A projected 3.2 million new commercial trucks sold globally in 2018 in Class 4 through Class 8 would represent a 1.6% increase over 2017, according to projection by IHS Markit.

Truck customers in China are driving the sales growth, and registrations in the U.S. increased 12.2% in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017 with double-digit growth in Class 6 and Class 8, according to the research firm.

"Whatever doesn't get built this year is going to roll off the line and turn up in next year's registrations, making it unlikely we will see a sharp downturn in North America before 2020," said Antti Lindstrom, a build-side analyst for IHS Markit.

New-truck sales in North America should show strength in 2018 and 2019, as the research firm projects about 11% growth in 2018 and 9% growth in 2019. Strong demand has helped drive the growth, and production capacity constraints in Class 8 has prevented new orders from being delivered this year.

Registrations of Class 4 through Class 8 vehicles show strong growth among Class 6, and increased 14.7% in the first half of 2018 compared to the first half of 2017. Class 8 truck registrations grew 19%. Most other classes also saw growth, including a 7.4% increase in Class 7, 5.6% increase in Class 5, and a 5.9% decline in Class 4.

The robust Class 8 demand has been driven by tight trucking capacity, robust economic growth, and full implementation of the mandate for electronic logging devices (ELDs).

Large fleets of at least 500 trucks are driving the growth with 45% of the registrations from that segment. The central and northeast regions continue steady growth with an increase of 14% in each region that equated to 20,000 units collectively.

In the smaller vehicle segment, Class 1 through Class 3 maintained strong momentum with continued growth expected in the pickup truck and van segments. New registrations increased 6% by 340,000 units in the first half of 2018.

"Last mile delivery vehicle volume will continue to expand creating traffic congestion challenges on city infrastructure," said Dawn Brusseau, associate director, commercial vehicle solutions for IHS Markit. "Alternative traffic patterns and advancements in logistic channels will require innovative and immediate remediation to offset the increase of additional vehicles on our city roads."

Diesel-powered commercial trucks remain the dominant fuel source, while the popularity of electric vehicles continues to increase. New registrations for January to June 2018 Class 4 through Class 8 commercial diesel vehicles increased 14.9% year-over-year, while gasoline-powered vehicles declined 0.4%. Alternative powered vehicles grew 29% year-over-year.

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