Truck orders fall for sixth time in seven months

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Class 8 truck orders followed seasonal expectations last month, according to preliminary data from ACT Research. The 11,600 units booked in April was down 27% year-over-year and down 39% month-over-month.

Given robust Class 8 orders into year end, ensuing backlog support, and normal seasonal order patterns, ACT Research Vice President and Senior Analyst Eric Crawford said orders were expected to moderate into the second quarter, adding ACT expected seasonally-adjusted orders in a range of 15,000 to 20,000 units per month into mid-Q3.

"Coupling those items with increasingly cautious readings from the ACT Class 8 Dashboard, April orders were weaker than expected on a standalone basis, but bring the (year-to-date) monthly seasonally-adjusted average to 17,500 – squarely in line with our view,” he said.

Recent turmoil in the banking sector likely tightened credit conditions for some carriers and Crawford said may have played a factor in exacerbating April’s weakness.

"Thus, while we expect orders to remain at subdued levels into mid-Q3’23, we are not inclined to think April’s order activity represents the likely run rate going forward," he said. 

April's order skid was the sixth time in the last seven months that orders fell, coming in at 12,050 units. Class 8 orders have totaled 298,500 for the previous 12 months, according to FTR.

No surprises

The weak order level in April is not a major surprise, although it is happening earlier in the year than typically expected. The slowdown in orders is not a direct indication of the level of demand, but rather is because build slots are filled for 2023 and reduced order levels will continue through the seasonally weak summer order period.

 "When 2024 order boards open later this year, we anticipate some modest additional strength in order activity," added Eric Starks, FTR chairman of the board. "There still are indications that fleets are requesting equipment, and there has been no notable uptick in cancellations. Once we see the full data mid-month we will have a better grasp on any changes in cancellation behavior.“

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With build strong over the last several months, backlogs will have come down during April and Starks noted the incoming order rate for March was 145,000 annualized – on par with the weak order levels during the summer of 2022. "Despite the weakness, we do not anticipate much, if any, negative impact on production levels over the next few quarters," he said. 


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]