HAGERSTOWN, MD. Commercial truck sales should finish strong in 2015, with sales expected to be good in 2016 as well, noted Stephen Roy, president of Mack Trucks North America, during an event celebrating the addition of drive axles production and carrier housing machining to engine and transmission assembly here at the Volvo/Mack powertrain factory in Western Maryland.
“I think we’ll have a good year [in 2016]; we don’t see a real big dip occurring in sales next year,” Roy told Fleet Owner. “Replacement demand is still driving a lot of sales but we’re also seeing the new companies entering the market, too; there’s a lot of acquisition activity going on in trucking right now.”
The major factor limiting truck sales right now and for the foreseeable future, however, remains the ongoing – and increasing – shortage of drivers, Roy stressed.
“Absolutely we could sell more trucks if there were simply more drivers,” he said. “That shortage continues to be the limiting factor [for sales].”
The long-haul segment continues to experience the most acute shortage of drivers, Roy added, while regional and local carriers aren’t suffering nearly as much.
“I talked with one regional carrier [executive] recently who told me their driver turnover is only at 30%, because they can get their drivers home more frequently,” he pointed out.
Roy emphasized that if freight does begin to shift away from U.S. west coast ports to the east coast – a shift that may be driven by the widening of the Panama Canal; an effort now nearing completion – more opportunities for local drayage and regional trucking may be created which could help on the driver recruiting and retention front.
“Time will only tell where that is concerned,” he said.
Other industry experts are concerned that Class 8 sales in particular may be reaching a cycle “peak,” with truck inventories now on the increase.
“The capacity index [supply] rose faster than the freight index [demand] for the eighth time in 10 months back in September,” noted Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst with ACT Research Co., in a statement.
“We have to go back to the second half of 2012 to find a comparable period of imbalance – a period marked by anemic economic growth and strong U.S. Class 8 retail sales,” he pointed out.
“With strong Class 8 sales expected into the end of the year, and no apparent catalyst to trigger stronger economic growth, we would expect capacity additions to remain ahead of freight creation at least into the end of 2015,” he added.