Preliminary figures for Class 8 truck orders in the North American market promise both month-over-month and year-over-year increases, according to data released this week by ACT Research and FTR.
ACT figures show that 43,800 units were ordered during the month, up 4% from January — and a leap of 212% from February 2019. The ACT report also includes data for Classes 5-7, with orders of 25,400 units; down 4% from January but up 12% from a year ago.
“Beyond warmer inflation numbers, there is much to like in the current stream of economic data that indicate broad-based economic activity,” said Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst for ACT, adding that current economic growth — as has been the case throughout the pandemic — is driven by the goods-producing sectors.
“Consumer spending on goods, a red-hot housing market, a reaccelerating manufacturing sector and pent-up inventories combine to provide very good visibility to near- to mid-term freight trends. Contract freight rates are at record levels, as are spot rates, after seasonal adjustment,” he continued. “Without injecting stimulus or infrastructure into the discussion, there is a lot to like about freight, the carrier profit outlook, and by extension the commercial vehicle demand landscape.”
Analysts at FTR showed similar totals for Class 8 net orders in February, reporting 44,000 units — up 3% month over month and up 209% year over year — the second-highest number of orders ever for the month of February.
FTR’s report noted there is intense pressure on freight hauling capacity to get more trucks into service. However, the supply of new trucks is limited due to component and part shortages. In response, fleets continue to place orders in elevated volumes to try to acquire as many tractors as possible.
“There is tremendous pent-up demand for trucks. There are severe bottlenecks in the supply chain involving computer chips, wiring harnesses, and a whole host of various parts. OEMs are under intense pressure to deliver as many vehicles as they can, as soon as they can,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR.
“The tight capacity has caused spot rates to spike from already elevated levels. Contract rates are rising also. Therefore, fleets have plenty of cash to spend. They desperately need trucks, so they are ordering at near-record levels,” he continued. “The supply chain is so dysfunctional right now and there are so many parts affected, it is difficult to predict when the logjam breaks loose. The vaccine should help component manufacturers find more workers. There are also lengthy waits at the ports causing delays in imported parts.”
Both ACT and FTR will release final figures for February later this month.