Class 8 orders boom, approach all-time monthly high

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Updated Jan 29, 2021

Class 8 new truck orders Nov. 2020The Class 8 truck market rebound continues. That was the news Wednesday as ACT Research and FTR released their preliminary Class 8 new truck order estimates for the month of November.

ACT Research pegged the month at 51,900 units — up 33 percent from October and 197 percent over last November. FTR’s estimate was slightly higher at 52,600 units. Both companies say those units represent the third highest month on record. FTR adds Class 8 orders for the past 12 months continue to increase and now stand at 250,000 units.

“The pandemic-impacted economy continues to play into the hands of trucking,” says Kenny Vieth, ACT Research president and senior analyst “With freight rates surging to record levels the past three months and carrier profits certain to follow, orders accelerated in November.”

FTR adds that the tremendous volume reflects several large fleets placing their requirement orders for the entirety of 2021 to lock up build slots, which they perceive could be in short supply next year. The company says fleet confidence remains solid entering 2021, as carriers are getting their truck orders in early for next year’s deliveries. Additionally, consumer-oriented freight remains vibrant and industrial freight is expected to improve in the coming months. Fleets are placing big orders anticipating needing more trucks throughout next year.

“The Class 8 market is trying to rebalance after suffering through woeful order numbers early in the pandemic. The huge November orders mean that Q4 will be a fabulous one, regardless of what comes in for December and that portends well for the expected increase in production early next year,” says Don Ake, FTR vice president, commercial vehicles.

FTR estimates orders should begin to wind down in the next several months as the large fleets conclude their seasonal ordering but adds the November orders are “great news for the industry.” Recent orders are pumping up the backlog, which had dropped to a three-year low in September. The higher backlog would indicate that the industry will have a stable, positive year in 2021. This will be a welcome relief after the shock and chaos of 2020, the company says.

Says Ake, “Fleets are still trying to catch-up with the jump in freight volumes resulting from the economic restart and the generous stimulus money which is being spent predominately on consumer goods and food. This will only intensify if there is a second round of payouts.”

Vieth agrees, adding the November boom proves “once again our favorite commercial vehicle demand axiom, when carriers make money, they buy, or at least order, trucks.”

ACT Research adds the medium-duty market also had a strong month in November, with Class 5-7 orders totaling 27,200 units. That order volume represents a 9 percent decrease from October’s 30-month high, but was still up 78 percent compared to last year.

“There is a symbiotic relationship between heavy-duty freight rates and medium-duty demand. Clearly, the shift in consumer spending from experiences to goods has been good for the providers of local trucking services as e-commerce has grown by leaps and bounds during the pandemic,” says Vieth.

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