Monthly Class 8 truck orders. Source: FTR

Monthly Class 8 truck orders. Source: FTR

Class 8 truck orders are projected to fall for the fourth month in a row, highlighting a weaker freight environment in the trucking industry, according to preliminary numbers from ACT Research and FTR.

Orders of Class 8 trucks are expected to be around 13,500 for April, falling 16% compared with March and 39% compared with April 2015, according to FTR. It is the lowest monthly Class 8 order number since April of 2009. The market may not have bottomed out yet as activity is expected to remain soft during the slower summer order season.

“Class 8 orders were once again below expectations with the downshift in order activity continuing,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR. “It looked like the market was going to stabilize, but this order volume is surprisingly low.”

With a weak environment for freight rates and no additional need for capacity, fleets have sized themselves for the demand and are not in need of additional units. Manufacturers are not expected to be able to maintain build rates under current order conditions and backlogs will likely fall below 2014 levels this year.

Medium-duty Class 5-7 truck orders were down as well in April but remain healthy at 20,100 orders projected for the month. This represents a 10% decline from March but it is up 12% compared with last April.

“The healthy medium duty order trend, which began in September 2015, continued in April, although at a modestly reduced rate,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst. “Orders fell 10% sequentially from one of the best order months experienced cycle-to-date, but were up 12% compared to year-ago April orders.”