Class 8 truck orders dipped in March, in line with seasonal trends

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Following steady gains in the beginning of the year, North American Class 8 net orders declined in March, according to ACT Research and FTR Transportation Intelligence.

ACT preliminary data indicated that orders were 17,300 units last month, which was down 10,400 units from February and 8.7% from a year ago. March’s latest figures concluded the previous two month’s year-over-year increases.

NA Class 8 Net OrdersNA Class 8 Net OrdersACT Research

Steve Tam, analyst and vice president at ACT, said that despite early signs of improvement in the freight market and some OEM's efforts to stabilize demand, a segment of the truck buying populace remains cautious, calling it a “forced conservatism,” which he pointed out “capped” the Class 8 order activity in March.

Although specific figures of this month’s volumes are not yet final, Tam said that demand for tractors in the market reduced in March.

ACT said that a “middling” seasonal factor of 1.3% decreases intake for the month to 17,100 units. March is also marked as the first month since May 2023 that the seasonally adjusted total is below 20,000 units.

Meanwhile, FTR reported 18,200 units in March, down 34% from February and 4% below March 2023. Orders for the past 12 months have totaled 264,800 units.

Though the figures show a decline, FTR Chairman Eric Starks noted that it doesn’t indicate a downturn.

“Despite weakness in the freight markets that has persisted for more than a year, fleets continue to be willing to order new equipment,” said FTR chairman Eric Starks. “Order levels in March were below the historical average but remained in line with seasonal trends.”

[Related: Class 8 truck orders saw gains in February, beating last year’s numbers]

Similar to February’s activity, March orders are aligned with recent demand trend and seasonal expectations, FTR said in its report. “After maintaining an average level of around 27,000 units for the last three months, orders appear to be slowing at a seasonally typical rate.”

As Starks noted previously regarding data on February’s net orders, build slots continued to be filled at a reasonable rate. March orders are comparable to March 2023, indicating the market is still performing “at a solid level.”

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While demand is not rapidly decreasing, the market is also not performing significantly better than just meeting the demand for replacements. Starks said, “Our expectation for replacement output by the end of this year is unchanged."

Pamella De Leon is a senior editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. An avid reader and travel enthusiast, she likes hiking, running, and is always on the look out for a good cup of chai. Reach her at [email protected]