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Truck orders in August highest since February

Sept. 7, 2023
Net Class 8 orders, however, are still much lower compared to record activity in the second half of 2022, analysts with two trucking research firms noted, so comparisons to last year are at best flawed.

August preliminary Class 8 net orders were 19,000 units, down 9% compared to the same month last year, but they reflect the best month for heavy-truck orders since February, according to trucking industry data aggregator ACT Research.

Another team of analysts at FTR Transportation Intelligence had the August Class 8 order number lower, 15,400 units, but 16% higher than July. “Orders were down 26% year-over-year, but that comparison is a bit deceptive as last year’s numbers were exceptionally strong,” according to an FTR release.

“Continued economic strength and seasonal adjustment keep orders on trend,” a release from ACT stated. “July 2022 was the beginning of the run-up in order activity that continued through November and beyond. The August [2023] level of order activity continues to be below replacement levels. Total Class 8 orders for the previous 12 months have equaled 294,000 units.”

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FTR’s chairman, Eric Starks, added: “As build slots start to open for 2024 production, fleets are starting to place orders on the books. However, much of the ordering for 2024 has yet to be seen and typically will not show up until September or October. Despite rising order activity, the year-over-year comparisons will look horrible through November due to record order activity in the second half of 2022.”

He concluded: “The actual unit order levels will be more significant in the near term than the year-over-year change in analyzing the strength of the market. Even though order activity is still below replacement demand, a key takeaway from the August data is that fleets are not shying away from ordering new equipment, which is a good sign for the second half of the year.”

ACT’s president and senior analyst, Kenny Vieth, shared: “As represented by seasonal factors, the industry remains at that time of the year when expectations for order activity are low, as most of the current year’s orders have been booked and out-year build plans are only starting to open. For Class 8, August is the last month of 'weak order season,' the four-month period that begins in May. Adding to downward pressure, the 2023 build plan has been essentially filled since the end of Q1.”

Vieth also added, “Seasonally adjusted, orders were 21,500 units, up 7.1% [month-over-month], the best month since February, and the third consecutive month north of 20,000 units.”

See also: Five questions to ask your trucking finance source

ACT’s monthly findings are contained in its State of the Industry: Classes 5-8 Vehicles report, which provides a monthly look at the current production, sales, and general state of the on-road heavy and medium duty commercial vehicle markets in North America.

The ACT report splits market indicators by Class 5, Classes 6-7 chassis, and Class 8 trucks and tractors, detailing measures such as backlog, build, inventory, new orders, cancellations, net orders, and retail sales, according to ACT. Classes 5 and 6-7 are segmented by trucks, buses, RVs, and step van configurations. The Class 8 market is segmented into trucks and tractors, with and without sleeper cabs. The report includes a six-month industry build plan, a backlog timing analysis, and historical data from 1996 to the present.

ACT’s final August numbers will be released in mid-September.

FTR tracks class 8 truck orders for the transportation industry and reports on preliminary order numbers on a monthly basis.

About the Author

Scott Achelpohl | Managing Editor

I'm back to the trucking and transportation track of my career after some time away freelancing and working to cover the branches of the U.S. military, specifically the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Coast Guard. I'm a graduate of the University of Kansas and the William Allen White School of Journalism there with several years of experience inside and outside business-to-business journalism. I'm a wordsmith by nature, and I edit FleetOwner magazine and our website as well as report and write all kinds of news that affects trucking and transportation.

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