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Class 8 truck orders belie shaky economy

Class 8 truck orders in February outperformed what tracking firms expected, suggesting fleets still have money for new equipment.

It was the first time in the last five months that year-over-year orders came in higher. The industry hit a near record in September and then retreated.

“Over the past year, total net orders reached 303,000 units. In any market, this is a strong number,” Eric Starks, chairman of FTR Transportation Intelligence, said in a news release. “However, given the uncertainty in the economy, this is an especially welcome sign that demand has not collapsed and that fleets still have access to capital.”

Manufacturers took in 22,800 orders in February, 13% above January and 10% higher than February 2022, FTR said. ACT Research showed orders slightly higher at 23,600, well above the firm’s average of 15,000 to 20,000 a month in the near term.

Pent-up Class 8 demand could offset lower replacement orders

ACT estimates a pent-up demand for about 60,000 Class 8 trucks, meaning that catch-up builds could offset any slowing in replacement orders, according to ACT President and Senior Analyst Kenny Vieth.

Supply chain disruptions that hampered manufacturers have eased in recent months, allowing more bookings. But OEMs are carefully watching their backlogs in case supply chain troubles escalate. Exuberant order taking in the summer months of 2021 led to thousands of manufacturer-canceled and retimed orders in October and November that year.

After a slowdown in order taking led to allocations to dealers, OEMs accepted a staggering 55,000 orders in September 2022. A drop-off, likely at the behest of manufacturers, followed, leading pundits to suggest lower but still decent intake this year.

“While we expect we will continue to feel the effects of truck allocation, production has begun to normalize,” Rush Enterprises president and CEO William “Rusty” Rush said on the company’s four-quarter earnings call on Feb.16. 

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