FTR reported Thursday preliminary North American Class 8 net orders of 39,400 units in August, a 51 percent increase from July. ACT Research's August estimate was slightly lower at 36,900 units but still far outpaced its July total.
FTR adds August's total was 91 percent better than the same period last year, with Class 8 orders now totally 456,000 for the past 12 months.
Both companies attributed OEMs opening order boards for 2022 for the sudden uptick.
"Ordering has commenced for 2022 deliveries, but at a much more measured pace than expected," says Don Ake, FTR vice president, commercial vehicles. "Fleets have wanted to place their 2022 orders for months. They are in desperate need of trucks presently and with the freight market being so robust, anticipate that build slots will again be scarce next year. OEMs, on the other hand, have been reluctant to open their order boards due to high commodity prices and supply chain uncertainties."
Order demand is likely to remain high no matter how OEMs manage their boards. ACT Research President and Senior Analyst Kenny Vieth notes "supports for new vehicle demand remain in unprecedented territory, [but] the industry’s ability to convert that demand into vehicles remains constrained by numerous supply-side issues that begin with, but are not limited to, semiconductors. As such, production challenges are likely to weigh on orders, even as backlogs continue to rise."
Ake adds price negotiations continue with various fleets as OEMs struggle to schedule production in the first quarter due to continuing uncertainties with the supply chain.
"The supply chain is still impacting the entire industry and Class 8 orders are no exception. It’s difficult to know how many trucks you can produce in the first quarter when many components, and especially semiconductors, are in short supply. Once commodity costs stabilize and the supply chain gets into balance, orders will soar, and build rates will jump,” he says.
Both firms expect demand to remain huge through the end of the year, irregardless of OEM production capacity. Vieth estimates Class 8 orders will begin "their climb into the end of 2021."
Ake adds "orders will be substantial from August until the end of the year. However, there could be wide fluctuations from month to month because the OEMs are being deliberate in how they manage and slot the orders."
ACT Research adds orders were strong in the medium-duty sector as well, setting a five-month high at 31,900 units. "Classes 5-7 market continued to build on record-setting volumes," Vieth says.