North American Class 8 orders took another plunge in April to an unprecedented level of 4,000 units, according to a new report from FTR. April order activity was the lowest since 1996, with 44% below March numbers and 73% lower than a year ago. Total Class 8 orders for the last 12 months now total only 160,000 units.
“Despite all the economic calamity and a significant number of cancellations, Class 8 orders managed to generate a gain in April,” said Don Ake, vice president commercial vehicles. “OEM production was shut down for most of April, yet order activity endured. There still are a few fleets that need new trucks. We expect retail sales to be somewhat higher than expected in April.”
According to FTR, fleets are delaying their trucks orders to see how the COVID-19 crisis will affect the economy in the short and long term, with many cancelling orders which were scheduled for near-term deliveries. While orders are expected to rise in May to around 10,000 units, Class 8 order activity after that is highly dependent on the speed and strength of the economic recovery.
“The industry received a shock right along with the economy due to the virus response. Fleets will remain extremely cautious going forward, but we expect orders to modestly increase as the freight markets recover,” added Ake. “We have already seen some signs of life in refrigerated freight and expect improvement in dry van freight soon. The industry recovery will begin in May, but it will be gradual, just like the overall economy.”