Mack Trucks

Fleets begin 2024 in an equipment buying mood

Feb. 6, 2024
Class 8 order activity remains at a ‘high level’ to start 2024, with preliminary counts from FTR and ACT Research showing increases compared to 2023 despite a sluggish freight economy.

Despite a sluggish freight economy in 2023, over-the-road trucking fleets opened 2024 in a buying mood, according to the latest data from two leading commercial vehicle research firms.

FTR reported that January Class 8 preliminary in North America came in at 26,400 units, up 2% from December and up 35% year-over-year. ACT Research’s preliminary data showed 27,000 orders, up 600 units from December and 45% year-over-year.

“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,” Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst, said. “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 US truckers are still buying.”

See also: Major fleets see silver linings—but no more—about the freight recession

Seasonal adjustments pushed ACT’s January numbers up 11% to a 12-month seasonally adjusted annual rate of 292,000. FTR’s 12-month figures total 259,000 Class 8 orders. The firm noted that the heavy-duty truck market has been picking up in recent months: orders from the last three months would equate to a 354,000-unit annualized rate; the previous six months would be a 327,000-unit annualized rate. 

“Build slots continue to be filled at a healthy rate,” FTR Chairman Eric Starks said. “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. It was a mixed market for OEMs this month, 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.”

2024 medium-duty outlook

ACT also reported that seasonably adjusted North American Class 5 through Class 7 net orders increased the year from 20,300 units in December to 20,800 in January, according to ACT’s State of the Industry: Classes 5-8 Vehicles report.

“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.”

Both firms noted that these preliminary figures for January would be finalized later in February. 

About the Author

Josh Fisher | Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Josh Fisher has been with FleetOwner since 2017. With a passion for technology and how it's changing the world of transportation and trucking, he covers how the rise in AI and automation are changing the trucking industry and resetting supply chains and the alternative energy systems that will power fleets in the coming years. Fisher also covers the economy, public policy, and government regulations for FleetOwner and its sister publications.

Along with various video endeavors, Fisher oversees the annual FleetOwner 500 Private Fleets of the Year awards and the two FleetOwner 500 lists that each year rank the largest for-hire and private fleets in the U.S.

Previously, he was an award-winning editor and director for a chain of newspapers and news and sports websites in Connecticut and New York. He is currently based in Maryland. 

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