Commercial vehicle demand continues strong upward trend, ACT report shows

New Class 8 Truck
ACT Research’s latest Industry: North American Classes 5-8 Report reflects an increase in the demand for commercial vehicles.

COLUMBUS, Ind. — According to ACT Research’s latest State of the Industry: North American Classes 5-8 Report, the COVID-19 pandemic’s toll has not been evenly distributed across the U.S. economy. Transportation is one segment that has fared better than others — and that, in turn, has spurred a revival in commercial vehicle demand as the year has progressed.

“The pandemic’s toll has been horrific, not just in terms of lives lost, which continue to accelerate, but as well in consideration of economic potential missed,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst.

“For context, had the economy grown at 2% in 2020, it would have been $1.1 trillion larger than it was in 2019,” he said. “Despite that eye-popping statement, critical freight-generating sectors have soared as the pandemic shifted consumer spending away from service-sector spending and toward trucking-reliant spending on goods.

“But that’s only part of the story,” he continued. “Equally important in regard to the current demand situation is the large driver capacity take-out that occurred in April, and the industry’s inability to quickly add drivers has been a critical component in the persistent rise in freight rates.”

The monthly report reviews current production, sales and the general state of the on-road heavy- and medium-duty commercial vehicle markets in North America. Market indicators are differentiated by Class 5, Classes 6-7 chassis and Class 8 trucks and tractors, detailing measures such as backlog, build, inventory, new orders, cancellations, net orders and retail sales. Additionally, Class 5 and Classes 6-7 are segmented by trucks, buses, RVs, and step van configurations, while Class 8 is segmented by trucks and tractors with and without sleeper cabs. The report includes a six-month industry build plan, backlog timing analysis, historical data from 1996 to the present in spreadsheet format, and a ready-to-use graph package. A first-look at preliminary net orders is also published in conjunction with this report.

Vieth also addressed differences by commercial vehicle segment.

“October’s statistics were not as synchronized as in September, but otherwise reflected the strong upward demand swing, with materially higher orders and backlogs in the Class 8 category,” he noted. “While increasing in the aggregate, medium-duty market outcomes vary by sector due to COVID’s impact, with truck and RV chassis segments showing strength, while social distancing has negatively impacted school bus demand.”

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