Detroit’s Big Three are cranking up production of commercial trucks as demand soars, indicating that the US economy is on a strong growth path, company officials and analysts told Reuters.


After almost three years of stagnation, sales of heavy-duty trucks are up 40% this year, according to Standard and Poor’s, the report said.


To keep up with the demand, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler are planning to add more jobs at assembly plants that manufacture commercial trucks, the news agency said.


The increased sales of trucks, which are used to haul everything from gravel to clothes, point to a strengthening economy, Comerica chief economist David Littmann told Reuters.


“You can see with your naked eye when you are on the road how much greater the traffic is today vs. two years ago. The truck sales reflect that.”


According to Reuters, S&P credit analyst Scott Sprinzen said recently in a research note that sales of heavy-duty trucks are expected to remain strong throughout this year as order rates for new trucks strengthen, stimulated by replacement demand and robust general economic activity.


GM manufacturing spokesman Dan Flores told Reuters his firm is adding 300 employees and an extra shift this autumn in its Flint, Michigan, plant where commercial trucks are produced – the Flint plant has been running on one shift for the last three years but sales of GM’s large Topkick and Kodiak 6/7/8 series trucks are up about 84% this year.


“A medium-duty commercial truck is a business tool. It helps (businesses) generate revenue,” Flores reportedly said.


Reuters said DaimlerChrysler is also beefing up its North American trucks unit this year by adding 2,000 people to meet rising demand for its Freightliner, Sterling and Western Star brands.


The firm reportedly is planning to hire about 700 people and is adding a third shift this month in its Cleveland, North Carolina, truck manufacturing plant.


The company told Reuters the Cleveland plant has been increasing its output throughout the year in response to the improving North American heavy-duty truck market – about 100 jobs are also being added at another truck plant in Gastonia, North Carolina.


Ford reportedly said on Tuesday it too is planning to step up production of its commercial trucks by 30%.


“We are using every opportunity to build as many units as we possibly can,” Ford spokesman Ed Lewis told Reuters, which noted that Ford has seen a 113% increase in sales of heavy trucks so far this year.


Comerica’s Littmann is forecasting sales of 300,000 commercial truck units this year after about 141,000 heavy-duty trucks were sold last year, Reuters said.


Robust activity in the retail, construction and home furnishing industries is expected to drive the demand, he said, according to Reuters.