Class 8 net orders remained strong in July, according to data tracked by ACT Research, while medium-duty truck orders took a significant mid-summer dip, though order levels remain higher compared to 2016.
ACT said Class 8 orders increased 4% in July versus June this year and are up 81% year-over-year, noted Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst, in a statement.
“While down on a nominal basis from the 2017 order trend, seasonal adjustment brings July’s order intake in-line with recent activity," he added. "Over the past six-months, Class 8 net orders, seasonally adjusted, have averaged 21,900 units per month."
According to data from FTR Transportation Intelligence, Class 8 net orders for July hit 18,300 units; a month-over-month improvement of 5% and 79% better than the same month one year ago. Orders increased for the second month in a row, a positive sign during the summer, with order volume over the past 12 months indicating an annual Class 8 production total of 224,000 units.
“This is a great sign to see orders rising, even slightly, in mid-summer,” noted Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles, in a statement. “This is the beginning of a positive trend that we expect to continue the rest of this year, right into 2018. Freight is on the upswing and industry capacity is tightening. The equipment markets, both Class 8 and trailer, are starting to respond to this environment.”
By contrast, North American Class 5-7 medium-duty orders dropped 26% in July versus June, though they remain 2% higher on a year-over-year basis, ACT's Vieth said.
“After a seven-month stretch of Class 5-7 net orders averaging 22,100 units per month, preliminary orders dropped in July, declining to a 13-month low,” he pointed out.
Still, taken together, even though heavy- and medium-duty orders were lower month-over-month based on July’s numbers as a group, Veith said they are up a combined 33% from last year, which highlights what he called “the significant improvement in demand” that has occurred over the past twelve months.
Truck OEMs themselves remain confident regarding the current commercial truck order and sales trends as well.
Paccar, for example, which is the parent company of Peterbilt Motors Co. and Kenworth Truck Co., noted in its second quarter earnings report that U.S. and Canada Class 8 orders increased 44% in the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period last year.
“Kenworth and Peterbilt’s medium- and heavy-duty truck deliveries increased in the second quarter of 2017 by 25% compared to the first quarter of this year,” said Gary Moore, Paccar’s executive vice president, in that report. “Class 8 truck industry retail sales for the U.S. and Canada are expected to be in a range of 200,000 to 220,000 vehicles in 2017. The truck market reflects the good economy and high levels of freight tonnage.”