Light Duty on the Rise

Lynn Buck

Lynn Buck

As the last mile has gotten shorter, we’ve seen a shift to lighter-duty vehicles. Today’s consumers receive their purchases delivered at their doorstep delivered by smaller vehicles. Items are often shipped individually as they are in stock, resulting in more, smaller shipments instead of larger bulk deliveries. An increase in the number of individual, urban deliveries also leans toward lighter-duty for both parking and maneuverability.

Our purchased goods are lighter. The television I had delivered back in 2002 weighed nearly 200 pounds while the same size screen I purchased in 2010 weighed only 50 pounds. That same television takes up one-quarter of the space as the old one. Both trends point to a shift to light-duty.

The last warehouse in the supply chain is now closer to the consumer than ever before -- I have two Amazon warehouses within 10 miles of my house to accommodate same-day shipping. Consumers are also demanding more of their food from local sources, with some having food delivered to their homes. Delivery of time-sensitive products leads to shorter routes and often smaller loads.

There are many reasons to downsize to a lighter-duty truck. Companies are looking to cut the cost of overhead using more fuel-efficient vehicles – ‘right sizing’ to its primary application. The ability to analyze usage or delivery data and optimize routes have all contributed to efficiencies allowing companies to spec only those vehicles that are necessary. Some companies desire less engine maintenance complexity and expense and may shift to gasoline powered vehicles over diesel. Often this means going to a lighter-duty truck.

These are a few reasons that point to a diminishing need for larger trucks and have driven the demand for lighter vehicles higher. With online purchases steadily growing, this trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

A quick analysis of Ward’s Retail Sales data backs up these trends with some data. Examining the last fifteen years of Ward’s light duty retail sales illustrates this shift quite well. In 2002, retail sales of
Class 3 trucks accounted for 20% of the total Class 3-8 truck sales. In 2017, Class 3 represents 43%. Total Class 3-5 was 35% of Class 3-8 trucks sold in 2002, now it is closing in on 60%.

Not surprisingly, the same trend is seen in parts demand. Using our MacKay & Company DataMac® Light-Duty Database, I graphed out the aftermarket parts demand of Class 3–5 trucks for the last ten years. Aftermarket parts demand in 2017 for Class 3 trucks is 281% the demand of 2007. Class 5 trucks’ 2017 aftermarket parts demand is 313% of 2007 demand. Class 4, conversely, decreased 13% over the same time period. No surprise, more trucks = more parts opportunity.

Of course, this article is heavily slanted toward package delivery and there will always be a need for trucks that are used for tasks that require auxiliary power via PTO, haul or tow heavy loads necessitating a larger, more powerful truck. But the days of ‘always buy more than you need’ appear to be dwindling as there is no denying the data that some companies have made and will continue to shift to lighter vehicles in their fleets.


Mackay&Co TPS, February 2018, Article by Lynn Buck