Medium-duty orders slip, Class 8 market steady in April

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Updated Aug 11, 2017

Preliminary Class 8 truck order numbers for April clocked in at a shade under 24,000 units, FTR and ACT Research reported Wednesday.

FTR says its research shows preliminary Class 8 net orders for April at 23,600 units, maintaining the steady track that started seven months ago. While OEM activity was modestly better for some and down marginally for others month over month, FTR says April orders met expectations with a 4 percent increase over March and up 77 percent versus a year ago.

ACT’s numbers were similar, as the company says North American Class 8 orders continued on the surprisingly robust trend that has characterized activity in 2017. At 23,900 units, the preliminary read on April’s Class 8 orders marks the fifth consecutive month in which orders have been above 20,000 units.

“As this is typically the time of the year when orders begin to moderate, seasonal adjustment provides a small positive boost to the actual volume,” says Kenny Vieth, ACT Research president and senior analyst. “With seasonal adjustment, April’s Class 8 order volume rises 300 units.”

FTR attributes the recent consistency to better market predictors moving forward, as fleets are expecting better freight conditions in the second half of the year and current order activity reflects that. Backlogs should increase in April, getting close to where they were a year ago.  Class 8 orders for the past six months now annualize to 262,000 units, the company says.

“The order pattern continues to track a sustained, normal pattern.  In this order cycle, the fleets did not place all the big orders in October and November.  The all didn’t jump into the pool at once.  Some fleets did order at that time, but since then, fleets have placed orders in a more measured, steady fashion as they became more confident about 2017.  There should be one more month of good orders before the traditional summer break,” says Don Ake, vice president of Commercial Vehicles at FTR.

“The Class 8 market continues to show some solid momentum as orders remain at good levels and production is starting to rise. This is a typical moderate market recovery,” he adds. “The orders increased first, then production and then the actual sales. Truck sales were weak in Q1, but so was the economy.  Freight growth is increasing, and the fleets see this and are responding to this trend. This market continues to track the 2013 upswing with modest growth creating a positive environment for the OEMs.”

ACT reports orders weren’t quite as strong in the Class 5-7 sector.

Following eight consecutive months with steadily higher volumes, ACT says overall North American Medium Class 5-8 net orders moderated in April’s preliminary reading, sliding 13 percent from March to 42,500 units.

ACT says all of the month-over-month decline in April was related to slower medium-duty vehicle orders. After hitting a nine-plus year high last month, medium-duty orders moderated in April, falling 25 percent from March and 10 percent from year-ago.

“As April tends to be a slightly above average order month, seasonal adjustment lowers the month’s net order volume, which falls to 18,200 units,” says Vieth. “Taking the past two months’ orders together puts the total roughly in line with activity since December: From December to February, medium-duty orders averaged 22,500 units per month. In March and April, the average stands at 21,700 units.”

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