North American truck orders jump 77% in December, FTR

DETROIT, Jan 5 (Reuters) - North American orders for Class 8 semi-trucks jumped 77 percent in December compared with the same period in 2016, for a 77 percent full-year surge in truck sales in 2017, FTR, a company that tracks the industry, said on Friday. A strong road freight market should continue to fuel truck production in 2018, FTR said. Preliminary orders in the United States, Canada and Mexico for the big rigs that haul freight along North American highways hit 37,200, up significantly from around 21,000 in December 2016, according to FTR.

This was the third consecutive month truck orders have passed the 30,000 mark.

Full-year 2017 orders for Class 8 trucks came in at 290,000 units, FTR said, compared with the 164,000 big rigs that truck companies ordered in 2016. The United States is by far the largest market in North America.

Truck order growth in 2018 could be further boosted by a federal mandate that truck firms switch to electronic logs (ELDs) from paper logs. That mandate went into effect in mid-December.

Experts predict many smaller truck companies that fudge the books in order to stay profitable in a low-margin industry will close up shop, benefiting larger companies and driving up demand for new vehicles.

"Our forecast continues to call for an increase in production for 2018, but market expectations are varied for 2019," FTR Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Starks said in a statement.

The main truck makers in the U.S. market are Daimler AG , Navistar International Corp, PACCAR Inc and Volvo AB.

FTR said orders in December were spread unevenly among truck manufacturers, but said no single company "is showing any significant weakness in order activity."

(Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)