Reports: Class 8 truck orders decline in March

Updated Apr 4, 2019

Preliminary North America Class 8 truck net order data indicate the industry booked 15,700 units in March, dropping 6.7 percent compared with February, and falling 66 percent from year-ago March, according to ACT Research. FTR is reporting March orders at 15,200 units, remaining below the 20,000 threshold for the third consecutive month.

“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,” says Steve Tam, ACT 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,” Tam says.

Complete industry data for March, including final order numbers, will be published by ACT Research in mid-April.

According to FTR, March 2019 was the lowest March for orders since 2010. March orders were 8 percent below February and down 67 percent year over year. Class 8 orders for the past 12 months have now totaled 397,000 units.

“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,” the report states.

Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles, says, “These are extraordinary market conditions. Most fleets ordered well in advance of their need for trucks in 2019. 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.”

Although the economy and freight growth appear to be slowing, it has not impacted OEM line rates as of yet, according to Ake.

“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,” he says.

Final data for March will be available from FTR later in the month as part of its North American Commercial Truck & Trailer Outlook service.

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