Orders for new Class 8 trucks dip below 16,000

Orders for new Class 8 trucks have been below 20,000 for the past three months. Pictured is the Volvo VNL 780. (Courtesy: VOLVO TRUCKS)

Orders for new Class 8 trucks dipped below 16,000, according to the two companies that track and analyze such data.

ACT Research said preliminary North America Class 8 net order data show the industry booked 15,700 units in March, dropping a moderate 6.7 percent from February, but down 66 percent from year-ago March.

FTR reported preliminary North American Class 8 orders for March at 15,200 units, remaining below the 20,000 threshold for the third consecutive month.  March 2019 was the lowest March for orders since 2010. March orders were 8 percent below February and down 67 percent yuear-over-year. Class 8 orders for the past 12 months have now totaled 397,000 units, FTR said.

“March marks the fourth consecutive month of orders meaningfully below the current rate of build. Over that four-month period, Class 8 orders have been booked at a 194,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), compared to a 489,000 SAAR for the same period a year ago,” said Steve Tam, ACT’s vice president. “Even though demand is a shadow of its former self, slowing order intake belies current conditions. Admittedly, economic and freight growth are slowing, but both are still growing. And in the context of retreat from record levels, it is no wonder truck buyers continue to pursue incremental profits, as evidenced by the number of unbuilt units in the backlog.”

Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles, said demand is still strong, but supply is limited with all of the choice build slots for 2019 filled. Fleets that need trucks are basically taking whatever is available.  Backlogs are rapidly declining, as the market tries to rebalance and establish some semblance of normality.

“These are extraordinary market conditions. Most fleets ordered well in advance of their need for trucks in 2019,” Ake said. OEM production slots were scarce in 2018 and supplier constraints caused disruptions in supply, so fleets didn’t want to get shutout this year. Now so many build slots have been reserved, fleets that are currently placing orders for delivery this year don’t have many options. “Even though the economy and freight growth appear to be slowing, it has not impacted OEM line rates as of yet. Fleets are still putting more trucks in service and competing in a still decent freight market. It is expected that Class 8 sales will moderate sometime before the end of the year, as industry capacity begins to catch up with the freight surge that began in 2018.”

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