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Truck orders slip to seasonal, ‘more reasonable’ level in February

While still ‘excellent,’ Class 8 truck orders cooled in February, according to an early look at the numbers by industry analysts.

Preliminary data reported by FTR shows North American Class 8 truck net orders at 30,900 units, in line with the company’s expectations. 

February order activity was 12% below January settling into “a more reasonable, seasonal level” than the previous four months, FTR noted. However, it was still the best February since 2006, and a 7% improvement from February 2014. 

Orders have totaled 378,000 units over the last 12 months, by FTR’s count.

“Orders were spot on our expectations of 31,000. The market has calmed down but is still operating at a very healthy level,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “The economy and freight demand is more predictable, so orders should follow their cyclical trends for the next few months.”
However, Ake adds, it will be important to see how truck orders are distributed throughout the year.

“There are still build slots that need to be filled in the first half of the year in order to keep build rates up,” he said. “January orders were skewed for more deliveries in the second half of the year. It will be interesting if this ‘speculative’ order pattern repeats in February.”

Additionally, February was the fifth consecutive month in which Classes 5-8 MD & HD orders rose above 50,000 units, reports ACT Research. Classes 5-8 vehicle orders were booked at 51,400, up 6% compared the February 2014.

While at their lowest level since September, February’s preliminary order volume annualizes to a 616,000 rate – meaningfully higher than current production forecast expectations for the industry in 2015, ACT adds. Actual numbers will be released mid-March.

“The run of excellent new Class 8 order activity continued into February,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst, who also noted that February marked the 25th consecutive month of year-over-year gains in net orders. “While February’s order volume qualifies as the weakest month in the past five, on a seasonally adjusted basis it also represents the ninth consecutive month of orders over 28,000 units (a 336,000 annual rate). 

“However, there is a recognition that with the 2015 build schedule filling rapidly, it is unlikely that this string of excellence will remain unscathed by the time we get to late Q2,” he added.

Vieth said that medium duty orders have beaten year-ago results in five of the past six months including against a tough February comparison. Classes 5-7 net orders rose to 20,100 units in February, up 8% from January and 4% compared a year ago.

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