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June 3, 2015 11:40 AM, EDT

May Truck Orders Fall 23% as Open Production Slots Dwindle

Mack Trucks

New heavy-duty truck orders declined in May for a third straight month as the number of available 2015 production slots continued to shrink, ACT Research reported.

The firm’s preliminary total of 20,000 Class 8 net orders was down 23% from 26,115 in the same month last year and 11% from 22,405 in April.

Order activity had increased on a year-over-year basis for 25 consecutive months before slipping in March, April and May.

ACT Vice President Steve Tam said the recent downturn reflects scarce manufacturing capacity after a sustained surge in orders in October through January.

“We’ve had such strong order intake that we have a dwindling number of build slots available to be filled,” he said. “It’s not indicative of softness or weakness in the market.”

By the end of May, North American truck manufacturers likely were down to about 45,000 open build slots for the rest of 2015, Tam said.

Incoming orders typically slow down during the summer months, but that seasonal cycle began earlier than usual this year, Tam said.

“Things slowed down a little bit faster and a little bit sooner because they filled up a little bit faster and a little bit sooner than they typically do,” he said.

ACT expects order levels to continue dropping off through August before picking back up in September and October as more fleets begin to place orders for 2016 production, Tam said.

The industry’s backlog likely declined by about 8,000 units in May to about 169,000, but that still was 42% higher than the same time last year, Tam said. The current backlog represents about six months of production, he said.