November Heavy-Duty Truck Orders Slide After Record-Breaking Run

December 06, 2018 by Alan Adler, @AlanAdler

Orders for new heavy-duty trucks fell to a 14-month low in November after a record summer that has left the factories of most manufacturers running at full capacity.

Class 8 truck orders dropped 15 percent to 27,900 units compared with the same month a year earlier, according to ACT Research.

However, orders through 11 months this year topped 468,600, an industry record. The previous order record was 390,165 in 2004.

“Peak orders have been cited for some time, but the timing for the year-over-year decline is still surprising,” David Leiker, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co., said in a research note Wednesday.

The backlog means trucks on order won’t be built until the middle of 2019, industry experts said.

“There’s a good possibility that orders in December will be below 20,000,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR Transportation Intelligence.

Order uptick in 2019

Healthy orders should resume the first half of 2019 as freight demand remains strong, Ake said. But any disruption to the parts supply chain could have an immediate impact because suppliers are running at full capacity.

Motor carriers placed redundant orders in recent months to be sure they have trucks when they need them, Leiker said. Though the exact figure is unknown, it could account for as many as 45,000 of the orders in recent months.

“We know we have excess orders in the system,” Ake said. “There might be some months [in 2019] where cancelations are near records.”

He said the moving around of orders will quiet by June next year. That’s when it will be possible to know the extent of cancelled orders.

“Fleets will be looking at their requirements for second half of 2019, and will have a truer view of what freight [demand] really is,” Ake said.

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