Sales of medium- and heavy-duty trucks in the U.S. fell 2.8% below year-ago in September to 26,548 units, the first decline for the group in nearly three years, WardsAuto data shows.

The last time sales fell below prior-year was in December 2009, when big-trucks dropped 13.0%.

Classes 6 and 8 were the culprits in last month’s shortfall, with deliveries sliding 27.9% and 9.1%, respectively.

In Class 8, Western Star’s 31.3% drop was the biggest, putting parent Daimler 4.9% short of like-2011 results. International was right behind, with Western Star falling 30.0% from year-ago.

Modest declines were posted by other manufacturers, with Volvo’s Mack Truck the only brand to gain ground, up 47.1%.

Sales of medium-duty trucks rose 5.9% in September to 12,057 units vs. 11,389 year-ago.

A 110.0% surge at Ford and 55.7% spike at Freightliner drove a 9.5% rise in Class 7 demand, offsetting drops of 63.6% at UD Trucks and 33.1% at Kenworth.

Double-digit percentage declines for most manufacturers sunk Class 6 sales 27.9%. Ford saw the largest falloff, 48.6%, but higher-volume manufacturers also recorded losses, including top-ranked International, off 36.3%.

Hino edged out Kenworth by a tenth of a point for the biggest increase in Class 6, with a 46.5% rise.

Class 5 enjoyed the largest jump from year-ago among big-truck classes, up 36.2%. Credit goes to Chrysler, Freightliner and volume-leader Ford, with the latter spiking 52.1% from year-ago. Despite Chrysler’s 34.5% gain, Ford increased its lead over the No.2 segment seller, pushing its market share to 70.2% vs. 62.9% in like-2011.

PACCAR posted the biggest falloff in Class 5 last month, down 71.4%.

Class 4 recorded a double-digit increase in September, up 23.4% on a 371.4% gain at International and higher sales by volume-leader Isuzu. Ford and Daimler lost 90.9% and 42.6% of their year-ago Class 4 volume.

Despite the September decline, U.S. sales of medium- and heavy-duty trucks are up 19.5% year to date, with 259,499 units.

In other big-truck news:

  • Two Carl Icahn-backed businessmen, Mark H. Rachesky and Vincent J. Intrieri, have joined the board of International-maker Navistar, reports MarketWatch. Icahn, who owns almost 15% of Navistar, also wins the right to appoint a third board member. Meanwhile, Navistar interim CEO Lewis Campbell says the truck maker will deliver revamped engines ahead of schedule, and abandon plans to produce a 15L diesel mill, instead sourcing it from Cummins, a move that should generate $52 million in savings, The Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Freightliner extends an engine warranty on ’12 and ’13 Business Class M2 106 trucks with Cummins ISB engines to 5 years/250,000 miles (402,000 km), so long as the trucks are purchased from dealer stock before the close of the calendar year. Parent Daimler begins sale of its BharatBenz trucks in India with three heavy-duty models, the 2523R and 3123R, with 25 and 31 tons (23 and 28 t) gross vehicle weight, respectively, and the 25-ton GVW 2523C. Fourteen more models, in the 7- to 49-ton (6- to 44-t) weight ranges, are to be introduced over the next 17 months. BharatBenz truck dealers will be open by year end in “all key transport routes and trucking hubs” across India, Daimler says.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com