Orders for new Class 8 trucks more than doubled last month versus year-ago levels, according to preliminary data from ACT Research.
Preliminary North American Class 8 net truck orders for May 2018 soared to 35,600 units, compared to 16,940 units in the year-ago period, an increase of 110% according to the Columbus, Ind.-based research firm.
The May result represents an increase of 2.5% over April 2018, ACT said. Through the first five months of the year, 206,300 new trucks have been ordered.
ACT said it will publish final May numbers in mid-June.
The strong economy was credited by ACT president and senior analyst Kenny Vieth for the large year-over-year increase, as high demand and tight capacity is keeping trucking companies busy, and in need of new trucks.
“A healthy economy is generating good freight and we are in — I believe — an unprecedented rate environment for carriers,” he told Transport Topics. “So, truckers have the ability to make money in 2018, and into 2019 unlike any time in history.”
Vieth said that the strong ordering activity is likely to continue at least through the end of 2018, and noted that production of ordered vehicles is now lagging behind demand.
“We went from 2017 when we were kind of treading water to where now everyone wants a truck as soon as possible, and that’s been one of the challenges for not just the OEMs, but their suppliers,” said Vieth.
To illustrate the point, Vieth pointed out that the backlog for new Class 8 trucks in September 2017 was 94,400 units. It grew to 134,000 units by the end of December, and through the end of May is projected to be between 214,000 and 216,000 units.
U.S. retail sales of Class 8 trucks in April climbed 37% to nearly 19,000 units as all truck makers posted double-digit gains, WardsAuto.com reported.
Many Class 8 truck dealerships across the country said they have never been busier, and customers are coming in, not just to look around, but to do business. “We’re up about 40% year-over-year in orders, which is fantastic. We’re taking down a lot of new business and a lot of orders have been coming in steady. We’ve not seen anything falling off yet,” Kriete Group CEO David Kriete told Transport Topics in an interview from his Milwaukee Volvo dealership. “Business is very solid. A lot of business is being had because a lot of companies are replacing trucks.”
Kriete added that demand for new trucks would likely be substantially higher if the industry were not short an estimated 51,000 drivers, according to a report by the American Trucking Associations. “I think if there were more drivers there would be a lot more demand, which is scary considering how high the numbers are already.”
Transport Topics Reporter Roger Gilroy contributed to this story.