The ups and downs of Class 8 truck orders appear to be returning to a normalized pattern with manufacturers sitting on a healthy backlog of trucks to build.
Nearly all build slots are filled for 2023. That prompted slower order activity of 19,000 units in March, FTR Transportation Intelligence reported Tuesday.
Reduced order levels will continue through the summer, historically a weaker period for bookings. That normalcy was upended during the pandemic. Lower year-over-year orders in five of the past six months followed record bookings in September 2022.
High backlogs could be masking an order slowdown
“Given that backlogs are sitting at such high levels, it is difficult to ascertain if there is a fundamental weakening in the Class 8 equipment market,” FTR Chairman Eric Starks said in a news release. “Fleets continue to request equipment, and quote activity has been in line with past seasonal behavior.”
March orders declined 18% from February and 11% from March 2022. Order activity is in line with market expectations and running at a robust annualized rate of 340,000 units over the past six months, FTR reported. Class 8 orders totaled 301,500 on a running 12-month basis.
“The incoming order rate for March was 228,000 annualized, right in the sweet spot at replacement demand levels,” Starks said.
Demand for additional capacity falls but replacement ordering solid
Demand for additional capacity, so strong during the height of the pandemic, has fallen away with loosening freight capacity and lower per-mile rates.
“Overall, the numbers were solid and will have little impact on production levels over the next two quarters,” Starks said. “Given the uncertainty in the economy, this is a welcome sign that demand has not collapsed and that fleets still have access to capital.”
ACT Research pegged March orders slightly higher at 19,200.
“After coming in stronger than expected last month, Class 8 orders fell back within the 15,000 to 20,000 range and have averaged 19,500 units year to date,” said Eric Crawford, ACT vice president and senior analyst.
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