March 6, 2024

FTR, ACT report solid but not stellar new Class 8 truck build numbers


The weak trucking market is still not heavily impacting new truck orders, which remained reasonably strong in February, according to the two firms that most closely track the level of activity.

In releasing its report on preliminary orders for Class 8 vehicles, FTR Transportation Intelligence put the seasonally adjusted number for February at 25,700 units. That is down 9% from January but up 11% from February 2023. FTR said the number was “above seasonal expectations.”

The running 12-month total for new Class 8 orders is 263,700 units, averaging out to 21,975 per month.

At ACT Research, seasonal adjustment brought a not seasonally adjusted figure of 27,700 units down to 25,600 units. The not seasonally adjusted number was up 5% from January.

In a prepared statement released in conjunction with the figures, ACT President and Senior Analyst Kenny Vieth said conditions in the trucking market might seem to suggest that the order book should be trending down. But that isn’t the case.

“Weak freight and carrier profitability fundamentals, and large carriers guiding to lower capex in 2024, would imply pressure in US tractor, the NA Class 8 market’s largest segment,” Vieth said. “While we do not yet have the underlying detail for February order volumes, Class 8 demand continuing at high levels again this month suggests that US buyers continue as strong market participants.”

ACT Research said orders for Class 5-7 vehicles in February were 18,800 units, an annual increase of 7%. With seasonal adjustment, the total for the medium-duty class of vehicles was 17,900 units, a drop of 13% from the prior month. ACT Research said that figure is the lowest seasonally adjusted figure in 13 months.

FTR, in its statement commenting on the market, saw a balancing taking place at lower numbers than a few months ago.

“Concerns of a rapid easing of demand in 2024 are not coming to fruition nor is the market doing significantly better than replacement level orders,” the statement said. “After peaking last November at 36,000 units, orders have stabilized at a level roughly 10,000 units lower over the last three months.”

Chairman Eric Starks said FTR projects that build rates will be at replacement rates by the end of the year. But he said that at present, “order levels were above the historical average and above seasonal trends.”

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