Preliminary North American Class 8 net orders in March fell to 7,800 units, down 45% from February and 51% lower than a year-ago comparison, according to ACT Research.
According to FTR, a significant number of fleets canceled orders previously placed due to the sharp and sudden downturn in economic conditions.
Uncertainty over the duration of the COVID-19 crisis is limiting orders to short-term, definite needs. FTR expects orders to stay near the 10,000-truck mark for a few months until economic activity regenerates. Class 8 orders have totaled 170,000 units over the past twelve months.
“The only good news here is that the number was still positive despite the high number of expected cancellations,” Don Ake, FTR’s vice president for commercial vehicles. “The gross order number is probably higher than 10,000 trucks, which means at least some fleets need more vehicles. A few carriers are doing well in the short-term, depending on the region and the type of freight being hauled.”
ACT had March’s Classes 5-7 net orders at 14,700 units, down 36% from February and 31% from year-ago levels.
“Supply-side restocking on goods from China and demand-side restocking to support the surge in consumer staples actually created a positive, if temporary, inflection in freight rates,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “However, increasingly bad news on the COVID front through the month and manufacturing beginning to shutter at the end of March were a heavy weight on an already over-capacitized industry operating a very young fleet.”
Regarding medium-duty activity in March, he noted, “After a reasonably buoyant February, the medium-duty market felt the impact of COVID-19, if with less severe symptoms than Class 8. It is important to remember that March marks the beginning of the peak order season for medium-duty vehicles.”