Weak Class 8 Truck Orders Signal Downcast 2020

Class 8 truck orders hit the highest point of 2019 in October; however, in what is traditionally a great month for truck orders, that performance marked the weakest level since 2016, according to preliminary reports.

Preliminary North America Class 8 net order data show the industry booked 22,100 units in October, up 74% from September, reported ACT Research. However, that level still comes in 51% below October 2018 truck orders, according to FTR, which found that orders were boosted by a couple of big fleets placing large orders for 2020.

With flat freight growth and other industry headwinds, most fleets are ordering only for their immediate needs, preferring to wait and see how things shake out, FTR said Cancellations are expected to remain at a high level as manufacturers address excess 2019 orders from the backlog.

“Class 8 orders were the star of October, rising to an 11-month high,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “While freight market conditions remain weak, the market is arguably benefiting from a substantive change in the ‘must-have’ tractor spec: AMT, ADAS, and superior fuel economy are considerations to offset weakness in the top-line.”

“Orders increased in October as expected, however, caution prevails,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR. “The trade and political turmoil are producing a highly uncertain business environment. They are not willing to speculate much beyond the first quarter of next year. The OEMs have plenty of open capacity right now, so carriers are willing to approach 2020 a step at a time.”

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