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March Class 8 orders of 40,000 add to dizzying industry backlog

Supply chain woes and big orders mean build slots might not open until 2022

Class 8 truck orders hit 40,000 units again in March, continuing to put pressure on manufacturers plagued by supply chain slowdowns. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Editor’s Note: Updates with new 3rd and 4th paragraphs with FTR Transportation Intelligence material.

Demand for new Class 8 trucks continued at an elevated rate in March even though many of the 40,000 bookings have little chance of being filled until 2022 because of a growing backlog and supply chain shortages.

Compared to a year ago when the first wave of COVID was shutting down manufacturing around the world, orders were up 422%. (That is not a typo.) They were down 10% compared to February, according to ACT Research.

FTR Transportation intelligence on Monday reported 40,800 orders, a record sixth consecutive month of at least 40,000 bookings. FTR reported 372,000 orders for the trailing 12 months.

“The pressure in the market is building as orders continue to flow into [manufacturers] at a record pace,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “It appears the industry will be playing catch-up well into the first half of next year.”

Orders for Class 5-7 medium-duty trucks rose 19% over February. Demand was more than double that of March 2020, up 103%.

“Despite retrenching from February, Class 8 demand remained strong in March, well above replacement and even anticipated economic growth, let alone the industry’s ability to keep pace in the current supply chain constrained environment,” ACT Vice President Steve Tam said in a news release Friday.

Truck makers scramble to keep building

Truck makers are scrambling to keep building as semiconductor chipsets, as many as 17 per truck, are in short supply. Daimler Trucks North America is taking rolling downtime at two medium-duty plants in North Carolina and Mexico. Volvo Trucks North America expects to take down days this quarter.  

PACCAR Inc. is building trucks without the missing chips and parking them at its Kenworth, and Peterbilt plants in North America and its DAF Trucks plants in Europe and Brazil. The trucks are reinserted on production lines as chips become available. The 3,000 units lost in the first quarter will be added in the second quarter or later.

“With orders remaining hot through February reporting from ACT, backlogs and backlog-to-build ratios continuing to rise, and new vehicle inventories tight, the problem isn’t demand, but supply,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst.

The $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package is further juicing strong demand for consumer goods and trucks to move them. The economy stands to get a major boost from President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure bill, if it passes the Democratic-majority Congress over Republican objections.

Medium-duty trucks orders are also robust.

“This is particularly interesting, given the medium duty’s second-fiddle position in the supply chain pecking order,” Tam said.

February Class 8 orders extend surging demand for new trucks

PACCAR parks unfinished trucks while waiting for semiconductors

Microchip shortages finally slowing truck production

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.



  1. Steve webster

    Too many trucks got sold off in 2020. Many were cut off for parts and scrap. Over 5000 trucks got parked or cut up or exported from Ontario Canada alone last year because of high cost of private insurance for small fleets ( under 25 power units) and owner ops with their own authorities. Also the wage subsidies allowed larger fleets to under cut. Owner ops leased or own authorities. We need minimum freight and towing rates in all of Canada. Ontario needs a plan like B C to have gov insurance for all fleets of 25 or less power units , taxis wheelchair vans and buses and for all new drivers in any class or just got their permits. We do not need another 100,000 trucks across the U S and Canada until we add 200,000 more parking spaces with 30,000 more short stay rooms or units for sick , injured and truck drivers doing layovers.

    1. Claude

      Good points. Wondering if anything in US infrastructure plan for new rest areas, golden chance for Biden to make electric trucking valid overnight and achieve his green goals by setting up plug in with new parking. We need to say together: it’s not truckstops problem, it’s not drivers problem, it’s US and Canadian taxpayer’s freight, every single thing they buy in stores, so it’s their problem. They lubricate the whole supply chain by creating this parking / staging, and the staging will aid congested urban supply chains well after self driving is common. It all comes back fivefold to taxpayers if they make the investments.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.