Truck orders off to weakest start in nearly a decade

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Updated Jul 4, 2019

North American Class 8 truck orders climbed 24-percent from May, reaching 13,000 units according to preliminary data released this week by FTR. With most orders for 2019 already on the books, 2019 is off to the weakest six-month start to a year since 2010.

Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles, said fleets are moving around previously placed orders and adjusting delivery times according to business conditions, while smaller fleets and dealers are placing small fill-in orders as production slots become available.

“The orders are truly a mixed bag. One OEM reportedly started to take orders for 2020, but the other OEMs apparently did not,” he added. “Without the 2020 orders, the total would have dipped below the 10,000 unit mark. Most OEMs are reluctant to quote future trucks due to uncertainty over material costs.”

Ake said until the tariff situation is resolved, OEMs see quoting builds for 2020 as “risky.”

“Fleets are also reluctant to accept material surcharges with this much ambiguity present,” he said.

Backlogs are expected fall under 200,000 units for first time since May 2018. Class 8 orders for the past 12 months now total 331,000 units.

“The economy and freight are still growing, but the latest manufacturing data is not promising,” Ake said. “The consumer sector is sturdy, but freight growth is expected to moderate the rest of the year. As a result, Class 8 truck build rates should begin to decrease in the coming months.”