Preliminary Class 8 orders for March 11% below February, FTR says

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FTR Associates on Wednesday, April 4, released preliminary data showing March Class 8 truck total net orders were 11 percent below February at 19,682 units for all major North American OEMs.

March orders were 32 percent below the same month of 2011 and reflect the third consecutive month-over-month decline in Class 8 orders. The first quarter 2012 Class 8 order activity annualizes to 266,800 units.

“There is no ‘good’ explanation for the weaker orders,” said Eric Starks, FTR president. “We had expected something in the low 20,000-unit range.” Starks said the weakness was “fairly broad-based” and not focused on one OEM.

“In fact, there was some dealer ordering by at least one OEM in the numbers for restocking,” he said. “If you take out those restocking numbers, then the orders were even weaker.”

Starks said FTR sees fleets as “gun-shy” in pulling the trigger, as the recent runup in diesel prices is giving truckers food for thought before they place an order. “Right now, it is relatively easy to get a build slot, so there is little incentive to place orders for later delivery or to get in line,” he said.

Starks said the latest numbers also suggest that the proposed midyear OEM build increases are now in question. “We will still need to wait and see what happens in the next two months, but I don’t see anything that suggests a large uptick in orders is on the way,” he said.