Class 8 Truck Orders Show Slowdown in May

Truck orders declined 32% from April, but still remained well over 2020 levels as new truck demand remains high.

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Preliminary North American Class 8 truck orders in May began their return to more seasonal trends, reports FTR. The research firm says net orders in May 2021 reached 23,600 units, a 32% decline on a month-over-month basis. However, orders were still up 16,800 units on a year-over-year basis. 

Orders for the previous 12 months total 420,000 units. 

ACT Research puts May Class 8 orders at 22,900 units; still down from April's order rate, the research firm reports May orders were 242% higher than those in May 2020. 

For Classes 5-7, ACT says orders reached 24,800 units which was a 14% decline from April. However, it was still 168% higher than the year ago order rate. 

FTR says in its press release announcing preliminary May orders that the drop does not equate to weakening demand. Freight growth remains high and build slots for delivery this year are filling up. Truck OEMs are not yet booking order slots for 2022. 

Ftr May2021 Class8 OrdersFTR

Don Ake, Vice President of Commercial Vehicles for FTR, commented in FTR's press release, “Most fleets have ordered all the trucks they need for 2021. They are getting frustrated because production is unable to keep up with demand. Carriers need more trucks on the road now, but semiconductor and other component shortages continue to restrict production.

“There is tremendous pent-up demand being generated in this market. Freight is growing at a brisk pace, but the supply chain bottlenecks slow the flow of new trucks coming off the production line. This, in turn, is keeping the spot market overheated.

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“OEMs are uncertain how to price 2022 models. The prices for steel, aluminum, and rubber have spiked after the economic restart. It is possible we will see record order volumes when the OEMs open their 2022 order boards.”         

“As we have been tracking for several months, medium- and heavy-duty backlogs for the remainder of 2021 were essentially filled with April’s orders,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s President and Senior Analyst, in ACT's press release announcing its May order numbers.

He added, “With 2022 order books not yet opened, it is not particularly surprising that orders for both segments fell to levels last seen in August 2020. We reiterate that the order pullback aligns with expectations, driven by the supply of open build slots in 2021, rather than demand for equipment.”

Regarding the heavy-duty market, Vieth commented, “While orders moderated in May, the 3- and 6-month net order SAARs and a backlog that was out nearly 12 months coming into the month highlight ongoing demand strength.

“Like Class 8, May’s Classes 5-7 net orders moderated, if to a lesser degree, in a still-supportive vehicle demand environment.”

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