by Sean Kilcarr, Editor

Sean Kilcarr MugshotAn uptick in truck sales, gross domestic product growth (GDP) and potential rate increases have given fleets plenty of reason for hope this year.

John Larkin, managing director and head of transportation capital markets research for Wall Street firm Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., stressed in a recent research report that the U.S. economic GDP growth should “accelerate slowly” at 2% to 2.5%. With the increasing capacity crunch hitting trucking, this should help carriers win hard-to-get freight rate increases.

Truck manufacturers and component suppliers at the Mid-America Truck Show back in March think sales for heavy- and medium-duty units should strengthen this year even if the “underlying economics” aren’t exactly red hot.

“We’re expecting a big year for 2014 for the entire industry as the positive trends [that arose] in 2013 are continuing into this year,” noted Robert Woodall, director of sales & marketing for Peterbilt Motors. Woodall projected Class 8 sales of up to 240,000 units this year.

The good news extends beyond Class 8, though. “The medium-duty side of the market is coming back at a much faster rate than the Class 8 side, and we expect to see 65,000 to 70,000 units in that segment this year,” said Bill Kozek, president of trucks and parts for Navistar.

With renewed hopes for the year, carriers may finally have some leverage on their side.