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Fleet managers unphased by market uncertainty

Feb. 14, 2024
Industry analysts from ACT, FTR report significant year-over-year gains in Class 8 truck orders in January, with FTR reporting fleets ordered 27,000 units in the first month of 2024

Freight market uncertainty isn’t stopping fleets from ordering new trucks.

Two industry analysts, ACT Research and FTR Transportation Intelligence, both identified significant year-over-year gains in preliminary Class 8 orders in January, with ACT reporting 26,400 units ordered and FTR counting 27,000 orders.

ACT’s total is up 600 units from December—and 45% from a year ago.

“Weak freight and carrier profitability fundamentals, and large carriers guiding to lower capex in 2024, would imply some pressure in the North American Class 8 market’s largest segment, U.S. tractor,” Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst, said in a news release. “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.”

FTR concurred, indicating January orders rose 2% month-over-month, and 35% from January 2023.

Total Class 8 orders over the past three months now are running at an annualized rate of 354,000 units, FTR added. The annualized rate over the past six months has been 327,000 units. Orders for the previous 12 months equaled 259,000 units.

“Build slots continue to be filled at a healthy rate,” said Eric Starks, FTR chairman of the board. “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. 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.

“Order levels were above the historical average and above seasonal trends, although we still expect 2024 activity to reflect replacement demand.”

Seasonal adjustments pushed January’s intake to 24,300 units, up 17% from December, ACT added.

Regarding Class 5-7 orders in North America, Vieth said: “Orders were 20,300 units in December, up 16% year-over-year. Unlike Class 8, medium-duty seasonality is modestly positive in January, boosting the seasonally adjusted order tally to 20,800 units, down 21% month-over-month from a tough ‘best-month-of-2023’ December comp.”

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