ACT Research offers updates on new Class 8, trailer demand

Total Class 8 NA Retail Sales January 2014 - January 2023

ACT Research offered more insight into the state of Class 8 truck orders and trailer orders in two recently released reports.

The company wrote in its State of the Industry: North American Classes 5-8 report that it has yet to determine if January's soft heavy-duty truck order totals were a single-month blip or the beginning of a more broad-based pullback in demand. The company says medium- and heavy-duty seasonal orders remained robust, so it will take more time to determine what January's total represents.

Eric Crawford, ACT Research's vice president and senior analyst says heavy-duty retail sales were up 29% year over year on a seasonally adjusted basis. Additionaly, the market's 1,389 units per day rate was nearly 23% ahead of the year-ago rate, 15.5% above the full-year 2022 average, and up 4.5% month over month.

“Business activity in the truck industry rolls on, with retail sales seemingly unphased by higher interest rates, as pent-up demand remains, for now. We expect this dynamic to shift in the second half of 2023, as the Fed continues its aggressive push to subdue inflation,” he says.

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In the trailer space the company's analysis showed the backlog-to-build ratio increased to 9.9 months after averaging 8 months since August of 2021 but actually trended down on a seasonally adjusted basis. Despite the later downturn, ACT Research says the current totals indicate the trailer industry is “essentially committed” into the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2023.

Total Trailer Backlog & BacklogBuild Ratio January 2014-January 2023

“With four more build days in January relative to December, build was 4% higher month over month. That said, build per day decreased from the previous month’s unit-per-day rate,” says Jennifer McNealy, director, CV Market Research & Publications. “OEM conversations continue to suggest supply-chain constraints, including labor, are likely to remain a limiting factor to production in 2023.”

McNealy says January's 24,300 units was nearly 58% below December’s intake surge, but only 9% lower than what was received in January of 2022. 

“Lower orders of both van types, as well as flatbeds, was offset somewhat by increased placement for lowbeds and tanks, with orders for dumps virtually unchanged,” she says. “Demand overall remains strong, and cancellations are low, but we are hearing that some orders are being made to replenish dealer stock, rather than going directly to fleet customers.”

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