October Class 8 orders were above 40,000 units for the eighth month in a row, but two different companies reporting the data put rather different spins on their analysis of the numbers.
FTR was upbeat on the continued strength of the market, while ACT pointed out lower year-over-year comparisons, especially when you look at seasonal adjustments.
FTR put North American Class 8 orders for October at 43,000 units, while ACT Research preliminary numbers were 43,600. Depending on which numbers you use, that was up 1.9% or 2% from September and 19% or 21% from last year, but ACT noted it was down from the 181% year-over-year gain reported for July.
"Fleets continue to order a record number of trucks to secure remaining build slots in 2019," FTR said in a release. "Freight volumes are now expected to be healthy well into the second half of 2019, keeping capacity utilization at extremely tight levels for an extended period. North American Class 8 orders for the past 12 months have now totaled 504,000 units." (ACT's numbers put it at 510,900.)
October is traditionally the start of the new order season. But this year, ordering began earlier, resulting in record months in July and August.
"For orders to still be this hefty in October after that is remarkable," said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “Months exceeding 40,000 Class 8 trucks had been a rare occurrence, only happening five times before 2018. However, October is the eighth month of forty-plus orders this year. Activity may start to fall off soon, as available build slots in 2019 diminish.”
Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst, noted that "October marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the current cyclical surge for Class 8 orders, making year-over-year comparisons narrow appreciably. In 2018, October had the third strongest order seasonal factor. As such, actual data receives a substantial haircut when seasonally adjusted. On that basis, October’s order intake drops to 37,800 units, down 26% from September.”
In medium-duty, ACT's Vieth noted that October activity dipped modestly below short and long-run averages. Over the course of the past six and 12 months, orders have averaged 24,000 and 24,900, respectively. October’s preliminary NA Class 5-7 net orders were up 19% year over year, but down 4.9% from the previous month. "October is typically a strong month for medium-duty orders, so season adjustment drops the month’s intake to an 11-month low 22,100 units.”
Last week during the American Trucking Associations' annual meeting, Daimler Trucks North America chief executive Roger Nielsen said "the market is a lot stronger than we ever expected it to be." He noted that the company is being careful not to take "speculative" orders that are simply being placed to reserve build spots.
When asked about whether the summer's large order numbers were a "pull ahead," he answered, "Normally Q4 is a very large order intake, where customers make decisions as they head in to planning for thenext calendar year. We often seen customers place orders in September, October, November. I would say this year the negotiations are happening earlier than in prior years."