SelecTrucks sees rising demand for used highway tractors

December 11, 2020

Tom Berg


Demand for used trucks – usually the vehicles neophyte owner-operators buy to get into the business – is rising and so are prices, and meanwhile, the “take rates” on highway trucks with automated transmissions are also up, Mary Aufdemberg, president of remarketing at Daimler Trucks North America, said in a Zoom news conference Dec. 9.

The positive trends reflect strong freight shipments and fleet buyers’ plans to gear up to handle a recovering economy when the coronavirus pandemic eases with help from vaccines next year.

Safety systems like adaptive cruise control, side obstruction warnings and lane-keeping assist are also gaining acceptance from buyers, and the crop of 4-year-old Freightliner Cascadia highway tractors now on the market have those, she noted. Safety equipment began appearing on road tractors with the 2018 model year, and more is on 2019-model-year trucks that will be traded by large fleets next year.

Like fleet people, Daimler’s remarketing specialists also see a strong economy ahead, and have expanded the SelecTrucks network from 26 stores early in 2020 to 30 now, she said. Freightliner Cascadias comprise the bulk of used trucks handled by SelecTrucks, which offers a variety of inspection, repair, warranty and financing services to customers seeking alternatives to buying new.

Daimler's SelecTrucks used truck division
Daimler’s SelecTrucks outlets work with dealers to resell vehicles traded in by large fleets. (Photo courtesy Daimler Trucks North America)

The factory-owned network works with dealers to resell batches of used tractors when they come in on trade from large fleets.

About one-third of 2018 Freightliner Cascadias were ordered with Daimler’s Detroit DT12 automated manual transmissions and Detroit diesel engines, Aufdemberg said. About 70% of 2019 models have that powertrain, so even more used-truck buyers will see them on lots next year. Automated transmissions can shift more precisely than most drivers and deliver better fuel economy and reduce work compared to manual transmissions, fleet managers have reported.

Large fleets trade in their vehicles after four to six years, with four years being the most common because fleets want to avoid repairs needed as trucks grow older, she explained. Aside from owner-operators, typical SelecTrucks customers are small fleets and leasing companies that specialize in putting operators into comparatively low-cost used trucks.

SelecTrucks' used trucks, 4-year-old Freightliner Cascadias
The bulk of SelecTrucks’ business involves 4-year-old Freightliner Cascadia highway tractors. (Photo courtesy Daimler Trucks North America)

“The used truck industry is extraordinarily dynamic,” said Aufdemberg, who previously worked in Daimler’s marketing, new-truck sales and financing arms. Like new trucks, sales of used trucks dipped steeply at the outset of the pandemic in March but are rising again as freight shipments recover.

“Used truck prices will firm up and demand will exceed supply” as the market heads into 2021, she said. LL