January Class 8 Truck Orders Start 2024 Strong

ACT Preliminary Data Shows Orders Increased 46.7% to 27,000 Units
Mack plant
A Mack truck is assembled at the company's manufacturing plant in Macungie, Pa. January showed the first year-over-year gain since a short-lived rebound in November. (Mack Trucks)

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North American Class 8 truck orders started off the year strong with January figures increasing from the year-ago period, according to ACT Research.

ACT preliminary data showed orders increased 46.7% to 27,000 units from 18,400 during the same time in 2023, and went up 2.3% from the 26,400 units reported the previous month. This was the first year-over-year gain since a short-lived rebound in November.

“Weak freight and carrier profitability fundamentals, and large carriers guiding to lower [capital expenditures] in 2024, would imply some pressure in the NA Class 8 market’s largest segment, U.S. tractor,” said Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst at ACT. “While we do not yet have the underlying detail for January orders, Class 8 demand continuing at high levels at the start of 2024 suggests that over-the-road U.S. truckers are still buying.”

ACT also noted in the report that January has the third largest seasonal factor of the year. This seasonal adjustment pushed the total Class 8 intake to 24,300 units. It also found that the medium-duty classes experienced a year-over-year increase of 16%.

“Unlike Class 8, MD seasonality is modestly positive in January, boosting the seasonally adjusted order tally to 20,800 units,” Vieth said. “Down 21% [month-to-month] from a tough best-month-of-2023 December comp.”

FTR, an economic and freight forecasting firm, also found in its preliminary data that truck orders increased 35% year-over-year to 26,400. The report noted that orders increased 2% sequentially. It also noted that total Class 8 orders over the past three months have been running at an annualized rate of 354,000 units.

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“With January orders coming in at a rate that was comparable to the previous month, the market is still performing at a high level historically,” Eric Starks, board chairman at FTR, said. “It was a mixed market for OEMs this month with some seeing increases and others seeing decreases in orders. Fleets continue to be willing to order new equipment despite uncertainty in the freight market.”

Starks believes build slots continue to be filled at a healthy rate. He noted order levels were above the historical average and above seasonal trends. But he still expects activity this year to reflect replacement demand. FTR also noted in its report that the annualized rate over the past six months has been 327,000 units. Orders for the previous 12 months equaled 259,000 units.

“Operating cost pressures and a downturn in freight demand continue to influence the heavy-duty tractor market,” said Jonathan Randall, president of Mack Trucks North America. “In January, volumes were more balanced due to pent-up demand spilling into 2024, as well as a robust vocational market, which is one of Mack’s core markets.”