Produce shippers who have had trouble finding enough trucks should have more options in 2012, partly because of a 23% increase in the number of registrations for new commercial trucks, compared with 2011 registrations.

The Polk Commercial Vehicle Report for 2011 shows almost 461,000 new trucks total registered in weight classes from the smallest, lightest commercial vehicles in Class 3 to full-size semi tractors in Class 8. In 2010 there were almost 374,000 new registrations.

However, compared to the 2006 all-time high of more than 800,000 registrations of new trucks, the industry is still trying to recover from the mass exodus caused by spiking diesel prices.

Truck shortages potato growers struggled with in the fall of 2011 were blamed on the booming oil industry in the region, but an equal factor, according to the Polk report, were lingering effects of the low registration rate for new trucks in 2009. That year saw the least new registrations, at about 325,000 since 1985.

The average annual new registration rate from 1985 through 2011 is about 507,000.

Another major factor in the truck shortage has been a declining driver pool. In the past four years, drivers decreased by 13%, according to a study by RWI Transportation.

Class 8 trucks, which haul up to 80,000 pounds, led the new commercial vehicle registrations with a 38% increase in 2011 compared to 2010.

The best way to measure the health of the commercial vehicle market, according to the Polk report, is to review the combined new and used vehicle registrations on a year-to-year basis.

For 2011, the combined new/used registrations topped 1.25 million, an increase of almost 20% compared to 2011.