October truck orders improve but signal subdued start to 2020 order cycle

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Updated Nov 14, 2019

Heavy truck orders in October rebounded strong, reaching 22,100 units according to ACT Research – a 74% surge over September and their highest level since November of 2018.

However, October 2019 order activity was the weakest performance for the month since 2016 and were 51% lower than October 2018, signaling a subdued beginning to the traditional start of the ordering season. Class 8 orders for the past 12 months have totaled 192,000 units.

“Orders increased in October as expected, however, caution prevails. The trade and political turmoil are producing a highly uncertain business environment,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “Fleets are only ordering for their immediate needs. They are not willing to speculate much beyond the first quarter of next year. The OEMs have plenty of open capacity right now, so carriers are willing to approach 2020 a step at a time.”

Order level last month, Ake said, was boosted by a few large fleets placing sizable orders for 2020, but otherwise smaller orders were placed for the first quarter 2020 build.  Cancellations are expected to remain elevated as OEM’s slash excess 2019 orders from the backlog. “The orders were fair in October. Freight growth is flat, as the industrial sector slows and manufacturing struggles a bit,” Ake said. “Orders are expected to stay in this range for a few months until there is more confidence in the economy and less turbulence in the trade war and political arena.”

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]