North American Class 8 orders took another plunge in April to an unprecedented level of 4,000 units, according to new reports from FTR and ACT Research. April order activity was the lowest since 1995, with FTR and ACT showing April to be 44% and 46% below March numbers and 73% and 72% lower than a year ago, respectively. Total Class 8 orders for the last 12 months now total only 160,000 units.
“Despite all the economic calamity and a significant number of cancellations, Class 8 orders managed to generate a gain in April,” said Don Ake, vice president commercial vehicles. “OEM production was shut down for most of April, yet order activity endured. There still are a few fleets that need new trucks. We expect retail sales to be somewhat higher than expected in April.”
According to FTR, fleets are delaying their trucks orders to see how the COVID-19 crisis will affect the economy in the short and long term, with many cancelling orders which were scheduled for near-term deliveries. While orders are expected to rise in May to around 10,000 units, Class 8 order activity after that is highly dependent on the speed and strength of the economic recovery.
“April represents the first full month of COVID-19 impacts on the trucking industry, and given broadly halted economic output leading to a sharp drop in freight volumes and rates, as well as more empty miles from fragmented supply chains further impacting carriers’ profitability, a negative order number was within the realm of possibilities,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. "From a seasonal perspective, April is a relative neutral Class 8 order month, and as such, seasonal adjustments adds little to actual data. On that basis, April was the weakest Class 8 order month since September of 1995, which actually produced a negative net order number.”