US Class 8 Truck Sales Decline 13% in April

Year-Over-Year Drop-Off Reaches Nine Consecutive Months
Freightliner truck
Freightliner, a brand of Daimler Truck North America, accounted for nearly one-third of all Class 8 sales for April. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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U.S. Class 8 retail sales continued the trend of year-over-year declines by falling 12.9% in April, according to data from Wards Intelligence.

Sales decreased to 19,798 units from 22,741 in April 2023. This marks the ninth consecutive month that sales fell year-to-year. But the volume was 0.7% higher than the previous month’s total of 19,658 units. Year-to-date sales are down 13.7% to 75,657 units from 87,647.

“In general, the numbers were, I would say, decent to OK relative to what we’ve been seeing,” FTR Chairman Eric Starks said. “They were up almost 700 units higher than what we had expected them to be, which is good. Now having said that, they still continue to be weak historically from where we would like them to be at this point in time. But, all things being considered, it was as good as we could have expected.”

Starks added something that stuck out to him was the inventory numbers. The inventory-to-sale ratio was at three months during March. He has expected that to increase to 3.3 months. But the recent data instead suggests they stayed at three months. He noted that this should mean production numbers will not be as strong.

Class 8 truck sales

“One of the things that we have seen in the last couple of months is a significant run-up in inventory,” ACT Research Vice President Steve Tam said. “We ended last year, in December, with just under 50,000 units of Class 8 inventory, and we have almost 60,000 units. We’ve added 10,000 units of inventory since the beginning of the year. My hunch is, I don’t know this for a fact, but that’s what we’re seeing with respect to the decline on a sequential basis.”

Freightliner, a brand of Daimler Truck North America, claimed the largest market share with 6,483 trucks, accounting for 32.7% of all sales for the month. That still was a 24.4% decrease from 8,580 the prior year. Western Star, also a DTNA brand, experienced the largest year-over-year increase in truck sales of the major brands at 81.1% to 889 units from 491.

“As a global company, especially in North America, Daimler Truck is off to a solid start in 2024,” said David Carson, senior vice president of sales and marketing at DTNA. “Our first-quarter results clearly show that the markets are normalizing, which is reflected in our sales figures, while our business is delivering stable EBIT and return on sales. We are on track, focused and determined to achieve our 2024 goals.”

Mack Trucks saw no change year-over-year at 1,536 units. Volvo Trucks North America sales decreased 20.1% to 2,037 units from 2,549. Mack and VTNA are brands of Volvo Group. Navistar’s International brand recorded a 36.4% drop in sales to 1,938 units from 3,046.

Class 8 truck sales

“Class 8 sales in the U.S. and Canada for the month of April were down almost 13% from April 2023’s numbers,” said Magnus Koeck, vice president of strategy, marketing and brand management at VTNA. “Certainly, there are several factors for this. In 2023, we were still catching up on industry backlog with demand for new trucks, which led to higher retails. In addition to the backlog, the freight rates were significantly higher in April last year than they are today, so we saw an increase in companies purchasing new trucks. The softer market we see right now was anticipated and something we have been prepared for.”

Koeck noted that fleets are delaying some of their purchase decisions a bit as they prepare for a potentially larger-than-normal pre-buy later this year. He also pointed out that this is an election year, which always creates some uncertainties in the market.

“April saw year-over-year declines as the tractor market has been impacted from a soft freight environment,” said Jonathan Randall, president of Mack Trucks North America. “Profitability among fleets remains at low levels due to market overcapacity. As a result, market demand for new tractors is declining from 2023 peak levels, but demand for vocational vehicles remains strong, with construction and government investment supporting the new truck market.”

Class 8 truck sales

Peterbilt Motors Co. sales inched up to 3,319 units from 3,318. Kenworth Truck Co. saw sales increase 12.2% to 3,581 from 3,191. Peterbilt and Kenworth are Paccar Inc. brands.

“As is typical for the month, April’s Class 8 sales were similar to March, which was a strong month by historical standards,” said Chris Visser, director of specialty vehicles at J.D. Power. “Fleets remain relatively confident about the contract rate environment. Orders, on the other hand, pulled back sharply for the second month in a row, suggesting this cycle has matured. It’s likely fleets will continue to accept their 2025 orders for the remainder of the model year, then evaluate how early to start ordering trucks in advance of the model-year 2027 emissions changes.”

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