Class 8 truck orders remain strong despite dip in April

Updated May 10, 2021
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Despite a month-to-month decrease, April Class 8 orders remain dramatically higher than the same time last year, according to reports from ACT Research and FTR.

FTR reports Class 8 orders for April were 34,600 units, continuing to exhibit strength above normal trends. It was the best April order activity since 2018. Orders were down 15 percent month over month but 30,500 units above April 2020. Class 8 orders now total 403,000 units for the previous 12 months.

Class 8 net orders in April were 33,500 units, down 16 percent from March, but a “whopping” 689 percent higher than April of last year’s COVID-stricken intake, ACT reports.

FTR says freight growth remains sturdy and fleets anticipate needing additional trucks to expand capacity throughout 2021. The supply of new trucks remains restrained due to supply chain delays, therefore carriers continue to order at healthy rates to secure new equipment by year’s end.

“Fleets see the need for more trucks extending out the entire year. Orders remain elevated as carriers evaluate their needs in Q4. This indicates they expect freight conditions to continue along at healthy levels right into 2022,” says Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles.

“The supply chain is stressed right now, limiting the number of new trucks that can be produced. With orders continuing at this pace, it is possible the supply chain will not be able to catch up with the fantastic truck demand for months,” Ake says.

“Last year, the industry was faced with all the negative challenges of the pandemic. We came through that surprisingly well under the circumstances. This year we have a whole new set of challenges. It’s almost as if conditions are too good. But the people in the commercial vehicle industry are working extremely hard to catch up with the tremendous demand,” he says.

[RELATED: Heavy-duty truck market the best in 35 years]

For the past several months, ACT has been counting down the remaining open Class 8 build slots in 2021. For that exercise, ACT uses three numbers: year-to-date Class 8 build, the Class 8 backlog analysis from ACT’s State of the Industry report and a materials-shortage-constrained 2021 forecast.

“We start with that preamble to highlight that it is not a surprise that Class 8 orders fell to their lowest level since September and that the decline was strictly driven by the supply of open build slots in 2021, rather than a change in new equipment demand,” says ACT President and Senior Analyst Kenny Vieth.

Regarding the heavy-duty market, Vieth says, “While orders moderated in April, the three- and six-month net order SAARs highlight the strength of demand, at 472,000 and 488,000, respectively. Like Class 8, April’s Classes 5-7 net orders moderated, even as activity remained at high levels.”

Classes 5-7 demand, with orders at 27,300 units, slipped 15 percent from March. Demand in this segment also enjoyed an easy year-ago comparison, besting April 2020 by 269 percent.        

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