Truck orders, tonnage continue trending up

Truck orders and tonnage levels in January both continued their torrid pace following a strong 2017, according to the latest data released by ACT Research and the American Trucking Associations.

ACT reported that Class 8 orders for January reached 49,100 units, the second-best month on record, and a 121% year-over-year growth over January 2017. Since October 2017, North American Class 8 net orders have averaged out to a 399,000 unit pace seasonally adjusted.

“The only month in history better than January was a 52k unit order explosion in March 2006, at the peak of the prebuying frenzy ahead of EPA ’07,” said Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst.

Vieth noted that Canadian orders were particularly strong, up 259% in January, and that overall, the orders were “broad-based, with supply-side, demand-side, and exogenous factors all contributing to Class 8 order activity.”

Medium-duty orders also posted strong growth, rising 39% year-over-year to their highest level since mid-2006. He attributed it to anticipation of a tax windfall and dealers adding inventory as a result.

The order boom continues to dovetail with growth in tonnage. The American Trucking Associations’ said its advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2% in January, which reversed a 0.3% decline in December. In January, the index equaled 111.6 (2015=100), up from 109.4 in December.

The index posted an 8.8% jump over January 2017, which beat December’s 7.5% increase over December 2016. For all of 2017, the index rose 3.8% over 2016.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 106.9 in January, which was 0.4% above the previous month (106.5).

“Last month’s gain in tonnage fit with the anecdotal reports we have been hearing from fleets – that freight was solid in what is typically a softer month,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “With the economy strong, the drivers of truck freight solid, and the inventory cycle in favor of motor carriers, I expect freight tonnage to remain robust in the months ahead.”

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.