April NA Class 8 Truck Orders Remain Above 2020 Levels

Class 8 truck orders were down from March, but still well above 2020 as fleets look to further add capacity.

Class 8 truck orders were up once again in April 2021 compared to the previous year.
Class 8 truck orders were up once again in April 2021 compared to the previous year.
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Preliminary net orders for North American Class 8 trucks were once again above the previous year levels in April 2021. Orders were down from March, but well above those of April 2020. 

FTR reports preliminary net orders in April reached 34,600 units. It says this was a 15% decrease from March 2021, but still 30,500 units above April 2020. The research firm says Class 8 truck orders total 403,000 units for the previous 12 months. 

ACT Research, on the other hand, puts April 2021 orders at 33,500 units for a 16% decline from March but 689% above April 2020 which was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For Classes 5-7, ACT reports demand fell 15% from March with a total of 27,300 units ordered in April 2021. However, orders were up 269% from the previous year. 

Final order numbers will be available from both research firms later in the month. 

Ftr April2021 Class8 OrdersFTR

Industry analysis

According to FTR, freight growth remains steady and fleets are anticipating a need for more trucks throughout 2021 so they can further expand capacity. This will continue to keep orders high during the year. However, it also notes supply chain delays are creating a strain on manufacturing and delivery of new trucks. This is leading to fleets ordering trucks at a healthy rate to ensure they receive their new vehicles by the end of the year, says FTR in its press release announcing its preliminary April order numbers.

Don Ake, Vice President of Commercial Vehicles for FTR, commented in the press release, “Fleets see the need for more trucks extending out the entire year. Orders remain elevated, as carriers evaluate their needs in Q4. This indicates they expect freight conditions to continue along at healthy levels right into 2022.

“The supply chain is stressed right now, limiting the number of new trucks that can be produced. With orders continuing at this pace, it is possible that the supply chain will not be able to catch up with the fantastic truck demand for months.

“Last year, the industry was faced with all the negative challenges of the pandemic. We came through that surprisingly well under the circumstances. This year we have a whole new set of challenges. It’s almost as if conditions are too good. But the people in the commercial vehicle industry are working extremely hard to catch up with the tremendous demand.”

“For the past several months, we have been counting down the remaining open Class 8 build slots in 2021. For that exercise, we use three numbers: year-to-date Class 8 build, the Class 8 backlog analysis from ACT’s State of the Industry report, and a materials-shortage-constrained 2021 forecast,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s President and Senior Analyst, in ACT's press release announcing its April order numbers. “We start with that preamble to highlight that it is not a surprise that Class 8 orders fell to their lowest level since September and that the decline was strictly driven by the supply of open build slots in 2021, rather than a change in new equipment demand.”

Regarding the heavy-duty market, Vieth commented, “While orders moderated in April, the three- and six-month net order SAARs highlight the strength of demand, at 472k and 488k, respectively. Like Class 8, April’s Classes 5-7 net orders moderated, even as activity remained at high levels.”

Get more perspective on the NA Class 8 truck market in our podcast interview with Chris Fisher of Power Systems Research.