ECONOMIC WATCH: Class 8 orders surge as fleets lock in 2021 build slots

by Today's Trucking

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – November was the third best month ever for Class 8 truck orders at 52,600 units, according to preliminary data from FTR.

It was the strongest month since August 2018, as fleets raced to lock in 2021 build slots. Orders were up 31% from October and tripled November 2019 numbers.

FTR said it was mostly due to demand from large fleets, worried that there will be limited build slots in 2021, and optimistic that consumer-oriented freight will remain strong.

“The Class 8 market is trying to rebalance after suffering through woeful order numbers early in the pandemic. The huge November orders mean that Q4 will be a fabulous one, regardless of what comes in for December and that portends well for the expected increase in production early next year,” said Don Ake, FTR’s vice-president, commercial vehicles.

“Fleets are still trying to catch-up with the jump in freight volumes resulting from the economic restart and the generous stimulus money which is being spent predominately on consumer goods and food. This will only intensify if there is a second round of payouts.”

ACT Research, meanwhile, reported preliminary Class 8 orders of 51,900 units, and 27,200 Classes 5-7 orders. Together, they were up 78% year-over-year.

“When carriers make money, they buy, or at least order, trucks.”

Kenny Vieth, ACT Research

“The pandemic-impacted economy continues to play into the hands of trucking,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “With freight rates surging to record levels the past three months and carrier profits certain to follow, orders accelerated in November. Preliminarily, North American Class 8 net orders rose to the third highest level in history, proving once again our favorite commercial vehicle demand axiom, when carriers make money, they buy, or at least order, trucks.”

Regarding the medium-duty market, Vieth added, “There is a symbiotic relationship between heavy-duty freight rates and medium-duty demand. Clearly, the shift in consumer spending from experiences to goods has been good for the providers of local trucking services as e-commerce has grown by leaps and bounds during the pandemic.”

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