It’s no secret that orders for Class 8 trucks have been in decline this year, but May is projected to hit new lows, according to preliminary reports from FTR and ACT Research.

FTR projects May Class 8 truck orders to come in at a paltry 10,400 units for the month, nearly 30% below April and more than 70% worse than the same month last year. It is the lowest volume in a single month since July 2016 and the weakest May in 10 years.

According to FTR, May is pretty much the last period for ordering trucks that will be built in 2019, and the low numbers show that fleets are simply trying to find any available build slots this year. Contributing factors to the low order numbers were a weakening freight market and rate conditions, as well as a large truck order backlog.

“May’s low orders were consistent with it being the last month in this year’s cycle,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “The 2019 order pattern was pulled ahead by three months, so May’s orders are similar to what you normally would see in August. Ordering for 2020 is expected to begin in June, with several OEMs expected to start taking orders for next year.”

Medium-duty Class 5-7 truck orders were steadier, coming in at 19,300 units for the month. This represents a drop of 19% from April and 21% from the same month in 2018. ACT Research said that despite a weak manufacturing and freight environment, the medium-duty market is benefiting from underlying strength in the consumer economy.

“The economy and freight growth are expected to ease throughout the year, applying some downward pressure on the truck market in the second half,” said Ake. “Orders for the next couple of months should be a good indicator of fleet confidence about 2020.”

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