Class 8 bookings rebound in August as OEMs open order books

Monthly orders for Class 8 trucks nearly doubled in August. But fleets still aren’t getting all the new gear they want, even in a slowing economy.

FTR reported that preliminary North American Class 8 net orders for August jumped 98% from July to 21,400 units as OEMs began filling build slots for the first quarter of 2023. But caution remains to avoid a repeat of cancellations in late 2021 due to overbooking colliding with supply shortages.

“OEMs felt the need to start filling their first quarter production schedules for their key customers,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR. “The supply chain is still blocked, so they are still unable to meet all the commitments they still have.”

William “Rusty” Rush, president and CEO of mega-dealer Rush Enterprises, told FreightWaves that pent-up demand for new Class 8 trucks was 80,000 to 100,000 units earlier this year. That number may have come down a bit, but demand remains strong for replacement trucks kept beyond their normal business cycles.

Continued shortages of key components, most recently power window regulators, volatile commodity prices like steel and aluminum, and general inflation, have contributed to OEMs maintaining a cap on new orders.

Bookings are expected to increase

“The industry has responded well to supply shortages but will need a production boost in 2023 to start to balance out,” Ake said. “Some fleets have used their trucks well beyond their intended replacement cycles and are in desperate need of new trucks.”

Bookings are expected to increase over the next few months, the typical new order season, as OEMs fill remaining build slots. August orders were 46% lower than the same month a year ago, when OEMs received more orders than they could fill.

The backlog of trucks awaiting production has shrunk in recent months, with manufacturers essentially accepting a new order for every truck produced. The Class 8 backlog is expected to decrease by about 8,900 units when the full August data is released, said Eric Crawford, vice president and principal analysts at ACT Research. This is less than the average decline of 12,400 units in May, June and July.

Because major customers place orders over multiple years, a true picture of backlogs beyond the next 12 months is an industry secret, according to Kenny Vieth, president and principal analyst at ACT Research.

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