According to both FTR and ACT Research, preliminary reports for North American Class 8 orders for January are down month over month but up year over year. Following a consistent trend over the last four months of averages of 19,000 trucks, January totals dropped to 17,700 units. ACT reports show a similar drop in medium-duty.
FTR reported that January totals are down 10% month over month but up 12% year over year, which suggests that fleets are ordering primarily the equipment they need in the short term.
“The Class 8 market remains in equilibrium with orders well matched to production, stuck at close to replacement demand levels," said Don Ake, FTR’s vice president commercial vehicles, in a release. "Fleets remain profitable and are continuing to replace older units according to planned cycles. The smaller fleets are being more cautious because revenue is declining from the previous years."
FTR expects Class 8 orders to remain in this range through the first quarter of the year.
“Weak freight market and rate conditions, as well as the residual backlog cushion, continue to bedevil new Class 8 order activity,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT Research president and senior analyst. “Notably, January’s year-over-year result is the first positive Class 8 order comparison in 15 months, and while actual orders in January were below the Q4 average, they were more closely aligned on a seasonally adjusted basis.”
ACT Research reported that medium-duty orders are also down after a soft late Q3/early Q4. In January, preliminary data show North American Class 5-7 net orders totaling 18,500 units, down 9% from December and 20% from a year ago.
“Seasonal adjustment provides an incremental bump to January’s medium-duty net orders, which rose to 18,700 units,” said Steve Tam, ACT’s vice president. “This means the Classes 5-7 backlog should slide by around 3,200 units, to 49,700 units, but we caution that the data never quite align month to month. The underlying build numbers are projected, so there will some variability in reported backlogs when final data is collected.”