September 22, 2015 2:30 PM, EDT

Class 8 Tractor Sales Trending Toward Record-Setting Year, ACT Says

File Photo of Vieth by Kaitlynn Scheidler/Keep Sake Photography

ORLANDO, Fla. — Retail sales of new Class 8 tractors in the United States are on pace to set a record this year, according to a leading industry analyst.

Kenny Vieth, president of ACT Research Co., said 2015 sales of heavy-duty tractors, excluding straight trucks, are forecast to surpass 208,000, topping the record of 201,200 set in 2006, ahead of new engine emissions regulations.

Vieth, the keynote luncheon speaker Sept. 22 during the Technology & Maintenance Council’s fall meeting here, also projected that 2016 will be “another good year” for freight demand and fleet profits.

“There are still pretty good times ahead,” said Vieth, while noting there likely will be a gradual slowdown during the second half of 2016 and into 2017.

Vieth spoke several days after ACT issued a report showing that new Class 8 orders were about 20,200 in August, up slightly from a preliminary report earlier in the month but still down from a year earlier.

In the report, Vieth cited higher cancellations among the signs that are “reflective of underwhelming domestic economic activity.”

Separately, ACT said new trailer orders were about 24,500 in August, up 21% from July but down 0.4% from a year earlier. August’s tally was driven by dry vans and flatbeds, which were both up sharply, ACT said.

Research firm FTR said its survey showed 23,500 trailer orders last month, up 15% from the prior month and 1% from a year earlier. FTR said dry van and refrigerated van were the strongest segments.

Meanwhile, looking at the broader economy, Vieth said he expects slow growth to continue. He noted the United States is in the middle of the fourth-longest expansion in history, showing that “slow growth does have legs.”

He said inflation remains tame and low fuel prices are giving a boost to truckers and consumers.

Vieth told the technicians and service providers in attendance that the current solid trucking environment could provide a number of growth opportunities.

Expanding hours to better accommodate truckers and investing in mobile service trucks were among his suggestions.

“There is a real opportunity for the maintenance providers to help the truckers do a better job doing what they do for a living,” Vieth said. “There is a lot of opportunity — a lot of trucks are parked every night.”

For more coverage of this keynote address, see the Sept. 28 issue of Transport Topics.