May Orders for Big Class 8 Truck Plunge 31%

June 05, 2017 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Orders for trucks in the heaviest Class 8 weight segment plunged 31 percent in May from the previous month but are still running well ahead of last year’s levels, FTR Transportation Intelligence said.

Carriers ordered 16,300 trucks in May with nearly every manufacturer logging a dip from April the consulting firm said.  May orders, however, were still 29 percent above the same month a year earlier.

“We are not shocked, however, to see a mid-year lull in order activity materialize, as recent order trends have belied persistent weakness in core trucking markets,” Michael Baudendistel, a Stifel Financial Corp. analyst, wrote in an investor report. “We believed it was possible orders could drop off mid-year more severely than seasonally normal.”

“While we still believe there is more potential upside than downside to our 215,000 unit 2017 forecast, given a steeper-than-expected decline in May and the potential that the weak month could be the first in a series, we are leaving our outlook unchanged for now,” Baudendistel said.

Nonetheless, Baudendistel said North American truck order trends over the past several months were good and that he believes improving market conditions will create an environment for strong truck sales in 2019 and 2020.

Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles, said that the Class 8 truck order decline from April to May did not signal a slump for the industry.

“The order numbers are not that worrisome, considering the steady volume of orders over the past seven months,” Ake said. “It appears the typical summer order slump just showed up one month early.”

He said orders are on an upward, but not “robust” climb.

The market for trucks in the smaller Class 5 through 7 weight segments continues to improve according to ACT Research, another industry consulting firm.

Manufacturers logged orders for 21,200 trucks in the Class 5 through 7 segment, a 13 percent increase from April and a 22 percent gain compared with the same month a year earlier.

“Medium duty orders saw a resurgence, though not quite to the level they enjoyed in the December to March time period,” said Steve Tam, an ACT Research vice president.

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