Heavy-Truck Orders Unexpectedly Down, Medium-Duty Strong

BLOOMINGTON and COLUMBUS, IN — Orders in North American for new Class 8 trucks during October increased well above a month ago, hitting the highest level since February, but are significantly weaker when compared to the same time last year, according to two new preliminary reports.

The freight forecasting firm FTR says the total of 25,000 is 30 percent higher than the September level but is down a substantial 45% year-over-year. This order number is well below expectations because fleets typically finalize their equipment budgets for the coming year, causing October orders usually rise considerably, according to the report.

Orders for the last 12 months are still an impressive 324,000.  

“The fall order season has gotten off to a mediocre start this year. Orders were not that great, but they weren’t terrible either. It is not time to panic just yet,” says Don Ake, FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles.

He says fleets are being more cautious this year in their ordering, which is to be expected, considering the weak gross domestic product numbers and slower manufacturing growth.

“If November and December orders are in the same range, then 2016 production should meet expectations,” Ake says. “Overall, backlog remains strong helping to keep the market propped up. On the other hand, there was an uneven distribution of these orders among the OEM’s, which unfortunately could result in upcoming production cuts at some plants being more than expected.” 

A separate report from commercial vehicle industry data provider ACT Research pegs North American Class 8 net orders slightly higher at 25,200 units, down 45 percent from the October 2014 level of 46,000.

“Remember that October 2014 was the second-best ever Class 8 order month, so the year-over-year comparison was a tough one,” says Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “Likewise, the 6,000 unit sequential gain from September to October of this year can be explained by seasonality. When seasonally adjusted, preliminary Class 8 net orders were down 3 percent from September.”

According to ACT Research, 47,200 Classes 5-8 vehicle orders were booked in October, up 14% from September but down 30% compared to the robust net orders in October 2014.

Meantime, Classes 5-7 net orders continued strong in October, coming in at 22,000 units.

“Despite tough comparisons, down 1.8 percent year-over-year and 0.3 percent month-over-month, both are within the margin of error for preliminary industry data,” says Vieth.

Because October is historically the year’s strongest month for medium duty orders, seasonal adjustment lowers October’s net order volume to 19,300 units, according to ACT Research.

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