Truck buying activity on solid footing, says ACT Research

ACT reported that a preliminary reading of heavy-duty Class 8 commercial vehicle net orders for North American markets increased to 29,200 units in March, representing the largest monthly order intake since May 2006.

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Truck buying activity is still firmly in positive territory based on data released today by ACT Research, a provider of data and analysis for trucks and other commercial vehicles.

ACT reported that a preliminary reading of heavy-duty Class 8 commercial vehicle net orders for North American markets increased to 29,200 units in March, representing the largest monthly order intake since May 2006. 

“March finished off a second consecutive quarter of elevated Class 8 demand. Orders were booked in excess of a 300,000 unit annualized rate from October to March. Industry backlogs, which fell just short of 100,000 units in February, likely rose by another 8,000 to 10,000 units in March,” said Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst, in a statement. “With the uptrend firmly established, the question for 2011 is now the industry’s ability to meet demand, instead of whether demand would rise to expectations. History shows that production always chases demand at the beginning of the cycle. Unlike orders, the industry needs to work in unison to raise production.”

As LM has reported, ACT officials said that continued strong demand for equipment indicates trucking fleets are ramping up replacement of vehicles, which has largely been deferred the past two years.

What’s more, ACT’s forecast for the Class 8 market indicates that 2011 will be at least 50 percent better than 2010 and closer to 60 percent when production is factored in.

“We are expecting good things,” said ACT Vice President, Commercial Vehicle Sector Steve Tam. “Tonnage is getting better, but there is still a ‘freight bubble.’ We still move a disproportionate amount of freight in the second half of the year. It is not a huge percentage but when you look at the total tonnage, it does not take long to add up.”

And when looking at demand in ACT’s forecasts, Tam said roughly 70 percent of all orders are typically for replacing existing equipment due to things like aging and wear and tear.

This, said Tam, is what is driving the majority of the growth in ACT’s forecast annually.

“Our forecast model actually says that we ought to be building something closer to 275,000-to-280,000 units for this year, but we have held that back because we don’t think the industry is capable of doing that,” said Tam. “The OEMS can do it, as can the first-tier guys, but there are some supply base constraints in the second and third tier that would preclude that from happening.”

Looking ahead, Tam said based on historical data there could be a slowdown in orders over the second and third quarters due to order build cycle activity. This is because most carriers and shippers want to book their orders by the end of the first quarter, with deliveries occurring late in the second quarter or early in the third quarter.

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About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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