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February truck orders beat expectations, signal ‘modest upturn’

Semi truck on the manufacturing floorClass 8 net orders for February hit 22,900 units according to preliminary data from FTR, exceeding expectations for the second month in a row.

February orders jumped 5 percent month-over-month and 28 percent year-over-year.

“That gain was only the third positive year-over-year comparison in the past two years,” says Kenny Vieth, ACT’s President and Senior Analyst. “Weak orders in 2016 and an improving economy should make positive year to year comparisons a monthly occurrence as we move through 2017.”

FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles Don Ake says the steady order trend that kicked off 2017 has pushed backlogs to more 100,000 units for the first time since June 2016.

“Orders have increased for four straight months, indicating the market is making a solid recovery after the second-half slump in 2016,” Ake says. “This order cycle is much flatter and longer than usual, but this is a healthy order total for a February. March orders may not decline that much. This is what a turning point looks like.”

The current order volumes should enable production to hit or exceed Q2 forecasts and Class 8 orders for the past three months annualize to 263,000 units.

“Freight is starting to pick again after sagging some in 2016,” Ake says. “Rates are climbing and fleets are feeling much more confident about business going forward. Truck builds and sales should now begin a modest upturn which should continue throughout this year.”

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Jason Cannon is the Equipment Editor for Commercial Carrier Journal and Overdrive, and is a Class A CDL holder. Reach him at jasoncannon@randallreilly.com.