Preliminary N.A. Class 8 net orders in March were 40,000 units, down 10% from February, but 424% higher than March of last year’s COVID-stricken intake, according to ACT Research.
N.A. Classes 5-7 demand, with orders at 31,400 units, were up 19% from February. Demand was more than double (103%) its year-ago level. Complete industry data for March, including final order numbers, will be published by ACT Research in mid-April.
“Fanning the flames of an already robust economy, $1.9T in additional stimulus has started filtering its way into consumers’ pocketbooks,” said Steve Tam, ACT’s vice president. “In addition, the prospect of a $2 trillion infrastructure bill has consumers and businesses setting their sights higher for both the near- and mid-terms. And, included in that outlook appears to be a need for an increasing number of commercial vehicles.”
Regarding the heavy-duty market, Tam commented, “Despite retrenching from February, Class 8 demand remained strong in March, well above replacement and even anticipated economic growth, let alone the industry’s ability to keep pace in the current supply chain constrained environment. In similar bullish fashion, consumer demand, fueled at least in part by the optimism associated with the nearly $2 trillion in recently approved stimulus, has caused buyers of medium-duty commercial vehicles to remain at the demand trough for yet another month. This is particularly interesting, given the medium-duty’s second fiddle position in the supply chain pecking order.”
Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR, added, “There is tremendous pent-up demand being generated due to the constrictions on supply. The pressure in the market is building, as orders continue to flow into OEMs at a record pace. To have this level of orders roll in for half a year is impressive and unprecedented.
“The component shortages of semiconductors and other parts are causing problems throughout trucking. Fleets desperately need many new trucks right now to keep up with demand, but production throughput is being constricted. It appears the industry will be playing catch-up well into the first half of next year.
“There are no clear indications of when the supply-chain issues will be resolved,” Ake continued. “We expect computer chips to be in short supply for at least a few more months. Worker shortages at key suppliers should get alleviated some by the vaccines. The backup at the ports will also take a few months to resolve.”