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ACT Research: Strength in commercial vehicle industry varies by sector

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An ACT Research official said ACT’s near-term outlook for heavy duty trucks changed very little again in April. (Courtesy: VOLVO TRUCKS)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — According to ACT Research’s recently released Transportation Digest, conditions in the Class 8 market are solid, while data from the medium duty sector diverged in February, with strength in backward-looking indicators, like build and sales, and some softness in forward-looking metrics, like orders.

The used Class 8 market remained challenged longer-term as robust sales translate into strong trade-in activity, and February net trailer orders are reported down sequentially, as well as versus last year at the same time.

The report, which combines ACT’s proprietary data analysis across a wide variety of industry sources to paint a comprehensive picture of trends in transportation and commercial vehicle markets, also suggests that U.S. economic growth in 2019 remains positive, although slowing, and in a less certain environment.

“Our near-term outlook for heavy duty trucks changed very little again this month. As we transition into spring, the contours of the rest of 2019 and beyond are becoming clearer and pretty much conform to our expectations,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “What marks current business conditions as ‘strange’ is the volatility and the rapid change of many of the freight-related indicators and signals that we track.”

Regarding the medium duty market, Vieth said, “Weaker medium duty orders are the largest detractor from a higher 2019 forecast, with softening in key end markets, such as light vehicles and housing acting, as a governor on demand. And, with higher interest rates and rising prices, growth is expected to remain restrained.”

ACT Research is a publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasting services for the North American and China markets.

ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies. More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

For more information about ACT’s Transportation Digest, visit www.actresearch.net/services/publications/transportation-digest/

 

 

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ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index surges 7.4% in April

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Compared with April 2018, the SA index increased 7.7%, the largest year-over-year gain since July. (The Trucker file photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index surged 7.4% in April after decreasing 2% in March. In April, the index equaled 121.8 (2015=100) compared with 113.4 in March.

“The surge in truck tonnage in April is obviously good for trucking, but it is important to examine it in the context of the broader economy,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “February and March were particularly weak months, as evidenced by the 3.5% dip in tonnage due to weather and other factors, so some of the gain was a catch-up effect. In addition, the Easter holiday was later than usual, likely pushing freight that would ordinarily be moved in March into April.

“I do not think the fundamentals underlying truck tonnage are as strong as April’s figure would indicate, but this may signal that any fears of a looming freight recession may have been overblown,” he said.

March’s reading was revised up compared with our April press release.

Compared with April 2018, the SA index increased 7.7%, the largest year-over-year gain since July.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 117.7 in April, 1% above March level (116.6). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.77 billion tons of freight in 2017. Motor carriers collected $700.1 billion, or 79.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.

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ACT says trailer order volume soft in second straight month

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This chart compares trailer order volume for three years. (Courtesy: ACT RESEARCH)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — ACT Research’s preliminary estimate for April 2019 net trailer orders is 14,500 units.

Final volume will be available later this month. ACT’s methodology allows the company to generate a preliminary estimate of the market that should be within +/- 3% of the final order tally.

“Order volume was soft in April for the second straight month. Several factors appear to be in play. OEMs continue to be reticent to fully open 2020 orderboards. This is evident in our measurement of the extent of the industry’s backlog, which has remained in the November or December timeframe throughout the first four months of 2019,” said Frank Maly, ACT’s director of CV transportation analysis and research. “While we hear comments of some fleets anxiously awaiting the chance to snap up 2020 build slots, some also appear to be evaluating their existing commitments. Cancellations in April were the highest since August 2016 on both a unit and percent of backlog basis, and have remained elevated since December. That resulted in an interesting dichotomy in April orders; while new orders were actually up versus March, cancellations were significant enough to pull the net order number into the red month-over-month.”

Maly said while down slightly from March, production continues at a brisk pace, although material/component availability and staffing continue to challenge OEMs. Seasonal patterns actually called for a slight increase for April production, so that small sequential decline likely confirms the impact of the aforementioned headwinds.

“Additionally, our discussions indicate that red-tagged units continue to challenge OEM production efficiency,” he said.

ACT Research is a publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasting services for the North American and China markets.

ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies.

More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

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Price of diesel inches up three-tenths of a penny

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Overall, the price for the week ending was down 11.4 cents a gallon lower than last year.

WASHINGTON — The average on-highway price of a gallon of diesel increased three-tenths of one cent to $3.163 for the week ending May 20, according to the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy.

The increase was precipitated by a 1.1-cent increase in the Rocky Mountain states (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana) and a 1-center increase in the Central Atlantic states (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland).

The largest decrease was five-tenths of a penny in the Lower Atlantic states (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia).

Two regions remained the same as last week.

Overall, the price is down 11.4 cents a gallon lower than last year.

For a complete list of prices by region for the past three weeks, click here.

 

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