Preliminary Class 8 retail sales for September set an all-time record, but large fleet deliveries likely inflated the results that erased the previous record set in December 2006, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence.
Sales were up 20% over August and 20% year-over-year. Class 8 U.S. retail sales were 28,200, beating the previous record by 4%.
All heavy-duty truck makers reported robust activity, FTR said. Strong and steady retail sales for the last five months are the result of manufacturers completing the production of record orders placed in 2018.
September sales a fluke
FTR said it has reports of some manufacturers discounting prices to reduce inventory on dealer lots.
“September should be considered a fluke as fleets delayed taking some deliveries in the summer and the sales all closed in September,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “It will be a much tighter market going forward as fleet expansion slows due to the weaker freight environment.”
Industry consensus projects retail sales of about 325,000 Class 8 trucks for all of 2019.
Jonathan Randall, Mack Trucks vice president of North America sales and marketing. said retail sales could fall into the mid-200,000s in 2020.
FTR expects sales volume to drop more than 20% in 2020. “The market is slipping back to replacement level,” Ake said.
Shrinking backlog leading to layoffs
The backlog of trucks waiting to be built stood at 288,000 trucks in October 2018. ACT Research predicts it will be about 135,000 when the final September results are calculated.
The shrinking number of trucks waiting in queue is leading to layoffs, down weeks and line rate reductions at most manufacturers.
- Daimler Trucks North America was the most recent to confirm layoffs with plans to cut 900 jobs at two Freightliner plants in North Carolina on October 14.
- Volvo Trucks North America and its sibling Mack Trucks are each taking two down weeks before the end of the year.
- Navistar International Corp. is cutting production 15% at plants in Ohio and Mexico.
- A Kenworth Truck Co. spokesman declined to comment on production cuts or layoffs at the Paccar Inc. unit.
- Peterbilt Motors Co., also part of Paccar, did not respond to a FreightWaves email about its production.