Preliminary North America Class 8 net order data booking down 26 percent in January, according to two North American firms that track and analyze such data.
ACT Research showed the industry booked 15,800; FTR reported 15,600 bookings.
Both figures represent a decline of 26 percent from December.
ACT’s figure was 68 percent below what it reported in January 2018; FTR’s figure was 67 percent below a year ago.
FTR said bookings in January were the lowest for the month since 2010.
“With near-record backlogs in both the medium and heavy-duty vehicle markets, order activity continued to moderate in January. During the month, North American Classes 5-8 vehicle orders fell to an 18-month low 39,200 units,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “Regarding Class 8, recall that January 2018 marked the point at which orders went vertical. We view this January’s order softness as having more to do with pulled-forward orders and a very large Class 8 backlog than with the current supply-demand balance. Softening freight growth and strong Class 8 capacity additions suggest that the supply-demand balance will become a story in 2019, but January seems a premature start to that tale.”
FTR said the low Class 8 order number was not entirely unexpected, as the great majority of fleets already have all their orders in for 2019 and don’t need to place any more orders for a while. Backlogs are expected to fall, but should remain over 70 percent higher than a year ago. Class 8 orders for the past 12 months have now totaled 402,000 units.
“Orders had to fall below 20,000 units at some point. There were record breaking orders placed last July and August, and this is the payback for that volume. Even with the weak January numbers, over 330,000 trucks have been ordered in the last nine months, so demand for trucks in 2019 remains strong,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “This is more of a resting point than a turning point. There is an enormous amount of orders in the backlog. The key will be how many of these trucks get built and when. The fundamentals of the economy and freight growth remain solid, so there is no reason to panic. The production rates the first few months of the year will be a better indicator of Class 8 demand than current orders are. We do expect the cancellation rate to remain elevated, as fleets move their orders around in the backlog. Order rates are expected to remain suppressed for a few months, but build rates and retail sales are forecast to climb.”
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