Sales of medium- and heavy-duty trucks in the U.S. climbed 20.2% in March, compared with year-ago, marking the 27th straight month in the black for the segment, WardsAuto data shows,

However, March saw a decline from February deliveries, which jumped 33.3% from prior-year.

Class 8 sales powered the overall increase, although Class 5 also was a strong performer.

Most Class 8 manufacturers posted gains, led by the Volvo Truck brand, up 70% compared with like-2011, followed by PACCAR’s Peterbilt, up 67.8%. Daimler fell 1.7% on a 2.8% decline by Freightliner.

Total medium-duty sales grew 11.8% last month, with Class 5’s 27.8% rise enjoying the biggest increase. Daimler’s 504.1% surge on a 326.5% spike by Freightliner led the group, while volume-leader Ford saw a 14.4% hike. However, Peterbilt saw year-ago deliveries halved, with just one unit sold in March.

Class 7 was the only other medium-duty group to see an increase in the month, up 16.0%. Peterbilt’s 133.5% gain offset the 26%-plus declines at both UD Trucks and Hino.

Classes 4 and 6 deliveries tumbled, with Class 4 down 15.2% from prior year, as the majority of manufacturers posted declines. Class 6 was down 2.0%.

In Class 6, Mitsubishi Fuso sales tumbled 95.6% for the group’s largest loss in March. The Daimler-owned brand sold just one unit compared with 22 year-ago. Volume leaders all saw gains. International took over the No.1 spot with 1,805 deliveries, pushing Daimler to No.2 with 1,604.

In Class 4, Freightliner’s zero sales in March, combined with steep drop-offs for Ford and International, put the group in the red. However, Mitsubishi Fuso and Isuzu enjoyed considerable results, with deliveries up 935.0% and 307.1%, respectively.

U.S. big-truck sales combined rose 32.3% in the first quarter, compared with prior-year, to 83,181 units.

In other news, PACCAR reportedly plans to eliminate 10% of its workforce in Chillicothe, OH. The Chillicothe Gazette says the reduction is in line with a 10% decline in orders for the Kenworth Class 8 models built at the plant. Ohio TV station WBNS estimates the layoffs will affect 250 people.

The central Ohio assembly site is getting Kenworth’s next-generation T680, unveiled at last month’s Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY. However, production of the new model, said to be more fuel-efficient than its predecessor, will not start until late May.

Freightliner unveiled its Revolution Innovation Class 8 concept truck at last month’s Mid-America Trucking Show, which boasts a “crossover cab,” with a jump seat that converts into a bed.

Toray Carbon Fibers America supplied the carbon fiber pre-preg material used in the construction of the Revolution’s hood, roof cap, side walls and back wall, marking the debut of the material in heavy-duty truck construction, Freightliner says in a release.

Mitsubishi Fusois offering 1.69% APR financing for 36 months on ’12 and ’13 Canter FE trucks. The deal runs through June 30 and is not available in Canada or Puerto Rico.

“We’re finally seeing a consistent, if small, rise in nearly every business indicator, and we want to give our customers as much assistance as we can to take advantage of the growth potential in their own businesses,” Mike Rumsey, Mitsubishi Fuso vice president-sales operations, tells Fleet Owner magazine.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com