Work truck market experienced pandemic-related decline

Straight truck sales in Canada fell 26% in 2020, while Classes 7/8 tractor sales dropped 29.5%, according to data from the NTEA presented during the virtual Work Truck Show.

Commercial van sales declined 23.3% in Canada, but rebounds are expected in 2021. Steve Latin-Kasper, market data and research senior director at NTEA, said Canadian straight truck sales should rebound 9%, commercial vans 15%, and Classes 7/8 tractors a more muted 2% this year.

But he was optimistic about the economic recovery in the U.S. Signs for encouragement include availability of cheap credit, low interest rates, increasing residential construction, growing last mile delivery demands, and possibility of an infrastructure bill.

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Worries include a labor market imbalance, and the possibility new Covid-19 variants that existing vaccines are ineffective against.

“If that happens, the optimism starts turning into pessimism again,” Latin-Kasper said. “We aren’t expecting that to happen.”

The U.S. work truck industry certainly felt the effects of the pandemic. It went from US$156 billion in sales revenue at the end of 2019, to about $126 billion in 2020. But NTEA expects it to climb back to $141 billion this year, and $150 billion in 2022.

Within the transportation and warehousing sector, the courier sub-segment was the strongest, and the only to actually grow through the pandemic.

“Not only did it not fall along with the rest of the economy, growth in this segment went up from roughly 5%, to 11%. The rate of growth more than doubled throughout the pandemic,” Latin-Kasper said.

That, in turn, benefited truck and trailer rental businesses, as there weren’t enough trucks to meet courier demand and they had to lease or rent additional units.

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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