Truck orders stayed strong in January, netting a minor increase over December, ACT Research and FTR reported Friday.
ACT Research reported preliminary Class 8 orders of 27,000, up 600 units from December. FTR's estimate was 26,400 units, up 2%. Both totals were up substantially from January 2023, the firms report. FTR adds total Class 8 orders over the past three months are running at an annualized rate of 354,000 units. The annualized rate over the past six months has been 327,000 units. Orders for the previous 12 months equaled 259,000 units, the company says.
The steady order total was good news for a market that is expected to decrease in sales over last year. The firms state January's preliminary totals indicate a large downturn in demand has not yet materialized.
“Weak freight and carrier profitability fundamentals, and large carriers guiding to lower capex in 2024, would imply some pressure in the North American Class 8 market’s largest segment, U.S. tractor,” says Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst. “While we do not yet have the underlying detail for January orders, Class 8 demand continuing at high levels at the start of 2024 suggests that over-the-road U.S. truckers are still buying.”
“Build slots continue to be filled at a healthy rate. With January orders coming in at a rate that was comparable to the previous month, the market is still performing at a high level historically,” says FTR Chairman Eric Starks.
He adds January was a mixed market for OEMs, “with some seeing increases and others seeing decreases in orders. Fleets continue to be willing to order new equipment despite uncertainty in the freight market. Order levels were above the historical average and above seasonal trends, although we still expect 2024 activity to reflect replacement demand.”
Regarding seasonal trends, ACT Research notes January had the third largest seasonal factor of the year, which pushes January’s Class 8 intake to 24,300 units (292,000 SAAR), up 17% from December.
In the medium-duty space, Vieth adds Classes 5-7 preliminary net orders were 20,300 units, up 16% year over year.
“Unlike Class 8, medium-duty seasonality is modestly positive in January, boosting the seasonally adjusted order tally to 20,800 units, down 21% month over month from a tough best-month-of-2023 December comp,” he says.