Except for the driver shortage, 2015 is shaping up to be a strong year for truck sales overall, according to Robert Woodall, assistant general manager at Peterbilt Motors Co. Speaking at the recent Mid-America Trucking Show, Woodall said his company is forecasting Class 8 North America truck sales at between 250,000 and 280,000.
And Peterbilt is not alone in its optimism. Daimler Trucks North America is anticipating 2015 sales to grow 10 percent over 2014. According to Martin Daum, president and CEO, DTNA sees Class 6 through 8 trucks sales in North America at 411,000 to 453,000, with most of the growth coming from the heavy-duty sector.
In fact, ACT Research Co. believes the Class 8 market will reach a peak in 2015. ACT believes North American Class 8 production will reach 340,000 — the second highest year ever after 2006.
What’s causing the growth? It’s not any one particular thing but rather a combination of better fuel economy on new tractors, efficiency gains from vertical integration by the OEMs, the current age of the nation’s fleet, and the slowly improving North American economy.
All of these factors have come together to spur an increase in new truck orders. Orders have been so strong that Daum, speaking at MATS, said DTNA is adding enough capacity to build an additional 27,000 trucks this year.
The growth in the trucking industry isn’t limited to new tractors; trailer orders have been strong as well. Trailer orders were up 7 percent in March over February, according to FTR.
What does this all mean? For one thing, both truck and trailer order boards are full. “OEMs are booking orders late into Q3 and Q4, and there are even some orders getting booked now for 2016,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR. He was referring specifically to trailers, but the same trend is true for tractors.
In fact, ACT Research predicts open build slots will reach a low of 20,000 at the end of May.
What should you be doing if you hope to purchase new Class 8 trucks this year? The first step is to increase your planning horizons and place your orders earlier than you normally would. If your circumstances change, you may be able to get your production dates moved out later, but if you don’t order soon you may be shut out for the year.
Consider other engine or powertrain combinations that may have shorter order to delivery times. Work closely with your local dealer, because they may know of other customers who want to cancel orders and that may give you a chance to place an order or move your order up. Work with your manufacturer’s representative to stay updated on what’s happening. The OEMs are looking for ways to increase production and add more capacity, and if they do, you want to be the first to take advantage of it.
But be aware that there is no sign that OEMs will add a great deal of capacity or that build slots will open up. If you fail to get your truck orders in soon, you might not be able to get your new trucks when you need them. In order to get a truck, you may have to switch to a different OEM, which carries the complication of needing additional parts inventory and technician training. Another option would be to purchase used trucks, but again, you may have trouble getting exactly what you want.
A variety of factors have come together to heat up the trucking industry. Don’t wait to order a truck until it’s too late and you find yourself taking delivery in 2016.
About the Author: Jim Sweeney is vice president of capital equipment for NationaLease. His career spans 35 years in fleet planning, acquisitions and remarketing. For nearly two decades he served in management with Budget Car and Truck Rental. You can read his blogs at www.blog.nationalease.com.