Orders for new trucks dropped significantly in January, but the overall market remains healthy, according to two industry research firms.
FTR said preliminary North American Class 8 orders for January were 15,600 units, the lowest since October 2016. That figure was 26% below the previous month and down 67% from January 2018.
The report said the low total was not unexpected, as the great majority of fleets already have all their orders in for 2019. Class 8 orders for the past 12 months have now totaled 402,000 units, and backlogs remain about 70% above year-ago levels.
"There were record breaking orders placed last July and August, and this is the payback for that volume,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. "Even with the weak January numbers, over 330,000 trucks have been ordered in the last nine months, so demand for trucks in 2019 remains strong."
He added: “the fundamentals of the economy and freight growth remain solid, so there is no reason to panic."
In a separate report, ACT Research said the industry booked 15,800 units in January, down 26% from December and 68% from year-ago January.
"We view this January’s order softness as having more to do with pulled-forward orders and a very large Class 8 backlog than with the current supply-demand balance. Softening freight growth and strong Class 8 capacity additions suggest that the supply-demand balance will become a story in 2019, but January seems a premature start to that tale,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst.
ACT’s report also said Classes 5-8 orders were 23,400 for the month.
“While up sequentially, January’s orders had the ignominy of being compared to one of the best order months in history, January 2018: Classes 5-7 net orders fell 24% year-over-year, the first negative comparison in 16 months,” said Vieth.