Orders for heavy-duty trucks slumped in December, falling to their lowest total since August 2017 as fleets pulled back for the fourth consecutive month from their hot buying record over the summer, two industry firms reported today.
The preliminary December order activity of just 21,000 units was expected, with fleets securing the dwindling number of remaining build slots in the second half of 2019, a pattern that is expected to continue for several months, according to the Bloomington, Ind.-based freight transportation forecasting firm FTR.
"Order rates right now are not that relevant because of the record-breaking totals recorded in June and July last year," Don Ake, FTR's vice president of commercial vehicles, said in a release. "Fleets got a jump on ordering to reserve 2019 build slots, so orders had to fall off at some point, and December was the start of it."
That trend was echoed by similar results in the preliminary December truck statistics reported by ACT Research, a Columbus, Ind.-based analyst and forecasting firm that also tracks the market. ACT found that North America Class 8 net order data showed the industry booked 21,300 units in December, down 24 percent sequentially from November and 43 percent from year-ago December.
The news is also in line with several other recent economic reports, such as the Logistics Managers Index, that show a tempering of economic activity heading into 2019.
"FTR is forecasting freight growth to ease back some from the 2018 peak, but remain vibrant for the first half of 2019," FTR's Ake said. "At some point, the economy and freight growth will moderate and truck builds will decline. Then order cancellation rates will rise."