Home Truck News Economic Trucking Trends: Class 8 orders soft, decreasing backlogs - Truck News

Economic Trucking Trends: Class 8 orders soft, decreasing backlogs – Truck News

There’s good news this week if you’re still waiting for deliveries of new Class 8 trucks. Orders in June were soft, as anticipated, but production remains elevated, eating into the orders backlog.

Meanwhile, the U.S. spot market saw stronger rates for vans and reefers in the past week, but conditions remained difficult for those looking for flatdeck freight.

Mack Trucks assembly
(File photo)

Class 8 backlogs being whittled down

June was a soft month for new Class 8 truck orders. Preliminary data from FTR reflected 13,800 orders, while ACT Research reported 16,200. FTR’s numbers put June order activity as flat, and down 7% compared to last June.

That is below replacement demand, FTR says.

“FTR has been anticipating net Class 8 orders to drop over the last several months to below 10,000 units. This has not occurred, which is a positive sign that fleets still need equipment,” said FTR chairman Eric Starks.

“However, with all the order slots filled for 2023 and 2024 slots yet to be fully opened, it is unclear when these ordered trucks will be built. OEMs have hinted for months that they are willing to keep build activity elevated well into Q4. With the recent solid order totals, it is all but guaranteed that Q4 production will be strong. OEM build slots for 2024 are not expected to open until August at the earliest.”

This is good news for those wanting trucks. Weaker orders combined with elevated build rates mean the backlog is being whittled away.

“This will pull backlogs back into a normal range over the next several months as the backlog-to-build ratio is currently elevated and putting pressure on OEMs to keep building equipment,” Starks said.

ACT Research’s preliminary numbers fell in line with expectations.

“Given robust Class 8 orders into year-end 2022 and the ensuing backlog support, coupled with normal seasonal order patterns, orders were expected to moderate into Q2 and remain at relatively soft levels into mid-Q3 2023,” said Eric Crawford, vice-president and senior analyst.

“June orders were in line with this view, bringing the year to date monthly seasonally adjusted average to 18,200. The relatively few build slots still free in second half 2023 suggest order intake is unlikely to find meaningful traction until 2024 order boards open.”

reefer trailer
U.S. spot market rates for reefer loads spiked last week and surpassed flatdeck rates for the first time since the second week of this year. (Photo: James Menzies)

Spot market steady

As with Class 8 orders, there were no real surprises in the U.S. spot market over the past week, according to the latest analysis from Truckstop and FTR. The week ended June 30 showed dry van and reefer spot rates rose as expected, but lag the five-year average.

“Prior to the pandemic, late June was a reliable peak for van equipment broker-posted rates aside from the December holidays,” loadboard Truckstop reported.

“Seasonality has not been as reliable since 2020, but both dry van and refrigerated posted solid gains week over week. Spot rates for flatbed equipment, however, fell for the fifth straight week and recently are lagging the five-year average for the first time in several years. The sharp increase in refrigerated rates coupled with the recent declines in flatbed rates resulted in refrigerated rates exceeding flatbed rates for the first time since the second week of 2023.”

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