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Downside of commercial vehicle purchasing cycle snares Meritor

Image: Meritor, Inc.

Meritor, Inc. (NYSE: MTOR) announced that it has commenced a restructuring plan “intended to reduce labor costs in response to an anticipated decline in most global truck and trailer market volumes,” according to an 8-k filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Troy, Michigan-based supplier to heavy-truck original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) plans to “reduce salaried and hourly headcount globally” across both of its reportable segments – commercial truck and aftermarket, industrial and trailer. Meritor estimates the actions will result in $20 million in employee severance costs, most of which will be completed by the company’s fiscal first quarter 2020 ending December 29, 2019.

The filing states that the plan was approved on September 27, two days before the company’s fiscal 2019 ended.

Like its counterparts, the supplier of drivetrain, mobility, braking and aftermarket solutions for commercial vehicle and industrial markets is experiencing the downside of the commercial vehicle production cycle. Net Class 8 truck orders topped 490,000 units in 2018, smashing the previous record by 100,000 units. However, 2019 has been a different story.

As excess truck capacity flooded the market and demand cooled, spot rates declined materially, requiring most truckload (TL) fleets to reassess their truck needs. The result has been a precipitous decline in new truck orders. As the industry continues to work through the current overbought position, new Class 8 truck orders are running well below standard replacement levels. FreightWaves estimates replacement demand to be 250,000 to 300,000 units on an annual basis. Currently, the industry is only placing new orders at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 150,000 units.

Class 8 Truck Orders – SONAR: ORDERS.CL8

“New truck orders have been negative on a year-over-year basis for 10 straight months dating back to November 2018 and in recent months have been tracking down more than 80 percent year-over-year,” according to FreightWaves senior research analyst Seth Holm.

The combination of well-below replacement level truck capacity being scheduled for production, carriers exiting the market through bankruptcy/failure and new industry regulations around electronic logging devices (ELDs) and hiring (a driver drug and alcohol clearinghouse), the downside of this heavy truck production cycle appears to be well underway.

In its fiscal third quarter 2019, Meritor reported earnings per share of $1.20, well ahead of the consensus estimate of $0.98 as gross margin increased 5.3 percent year-over-year to $179 million and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased 8.1 percent to $146 million.  

Meritor has 9,300 employees across its network of manufacturing and engineering facilities, distribution centers and global offices in 19 countries.

Shares of MTOR were off 3.5 percent on the day.

Todd Maiden

Based in Richmond, VA, Todd is the finance editor at FreightWaves. Prior to joining FreightWaves, he covered the TLs, LTLs, railroads and brokers for RBC Capital Markets and BB&T Capital Markets. Todd began his career in banking and finance before moving over to transportation equity research where he provided stock recommendations for publicly traded transportation companies.