Preliminary orders for Class 8 trucks in March plunged to their lowest levels since February 2010.
And to make matters worse, one could argue that March wasn't even fully affected by the coronavirus and that April's numbers could wind up being significantly worse.
ACT Research said that orders for March were just 7,800, which falls 51% lower than what was considered an "easy" year over year comp. FTR Transportation Intelligence estimated March orders at 7,400. All four major heavy duty truck manufacturers suspended production for March as a result of the virus, according to FreightWaves.
ACT is now estimating that 2020 production is going to be 53% lower than the 345,000 build in 2019. Meanwhile, the industry was already looking mired in a slowdown before the virus even hit.
Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst said: “On a seasonally adjusted basis, March was the weakest Class 8 order month since February 2010, and with COVID-19 becoming an even hotter topic over the course of March, one wonders about the impact on order activity on a go-forward basis.”
FTR stated the obvious: the uncertainty around the virus is limiting orders to only what people definitely need for the short term. They predict orders will stay under 10,000 per month until the economy eventually recovers.
Contributing to the issue is the fact that many carriers already have newer trucks in their fleets. The industry has been plagued by a backlog since a production spree caused an inventory glut back in 2018.
Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles said: “The only good news here is that the number was still positive despite the high number of expected cancellations. The gross order number is probably higher than 10,000 trucks, which means at least some fleets need more vehicles.”
But carriers with contracts for items like consumer goods and paper goods aren't seeing a slowdown. Jeff Shefchik, president of Paper Transport Inc. in De Pere, Wisconsin, said: “We always knew [toilet paper] was important and saw it as not a very glamorous product. But all of the sudden, it became very glamorous.”