North American Class 8 truck orders reached nearly 40,000 units in August, according to preliminary data released by FTR and ACT Research, and reached its highest mark in five months.
Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst, noted that demand for commercial vehicles was alive and well in August, as the Classes 5-7 market continued to build on record-setting volumes, "and after a period of moderation related to limited 2022 build slot access, Class 8 orders began their climb into the end of 2021,” he said. "While the supports for new vehicle demand remain in unprecedented territory, the industry’s ability to convert that demand into vehicles remains constrained by numerous supply-side issues that begin with, but are not limited to, semi-conductors. As such, production challenges are likely to weigh on orders, even as backlogs continue to rise.”
August 2021 order activity was up 91% year-over-year and up more than 50% over July. Class 8 orders now total 456,000 units for the previous 12 months.
The increase in orders came as OEMs began taking more orders for 2022, said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR. However, OEMs remain cautious about fully booking all 2022 orders, as price negotiations continue with numerous fleets as manufacturers are still having difficulty scheduling production in the first quarter due to continuing uncertainties with the supply chain.
"Ordering has commenced for 2022 deliveries, but at a much more measured pace than expected," he said. "Fleets have wanted to place their 2022 orders for months. They are in desperate need of trucks presently and with the freight market being so robust, anticipate that build slots will again be scarce next year. Demand for Class 8 trucks will be huge in 2022 due to growing freight markets and pent-up demand left over from 2021."
Orders will be substantial from August until the end of the year, Ake forecast. However, he said there could be wide fluctuations from month-to-month because the OEMs are being deliberate in how they manage and slot the orders.
“The supply chain is still impacting the entire industry and Class 8 orders are no exception," he said. "It’s difficult to know how many trucks you can produce in the first quarter when many components, and especially semiconductors, are in short supply. Once commodity costs stabilize and the supply chain gets into balance, orders will soar, and build rates will jump.”