Class 8 Truck Sales Reach Record High in U.S

Industry Insights Comments

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Will truck sales keep rolling through 2019?

At nearly 29,000 units, Class 8 truck sales punched through to a record high in September. But analysts are cautioning against reading it as a turnaround.

A growing trend? Not so fast, says industry experts.

According to WardsAuto, September truck sales hit 28,258 – that’s 19.5% higher than a year earlier. The sales record had been 26,462, set in December 2006. Sales in 2019 were 211,720 (YTD) compared with 178,199 a year earlier.

Steve Tam, Vice President of ACT Research, doesn’t expect the market to top September’s volume.

“I don’t think we are going to see something above the September number,” he said. “I think it was just an anomalous reading.”

Tam suggested September’s sales could be attributed to buyers other than large fleets.

“Some of the mid-sized fleets that typically run older equipment – from a freight perspective, from a profitability perspective, even though that all has started to slow – they’re still doing pretty well, better than normal. So, I think they are taking advantage of those profits to refresh, renew, or lower their average fleet age,” he said.

Don Ake, Vice President of Commercial Vehicles for Freight Transportation Research, agreed September’s pop is “definitely” not a trend. “The other thing September explains is why inventory numbers were spiking in the summer,” Ake said.

In August, inventory hit an all-time record of about 80,000 Class 8 trucks, “with market conditions, freight and what have you, slowing down.” Indeed, August 2018 retail sales beat August 2019 – the first time that monthly sales declined year over year in 2019.

Retail sales data for class 8 trucks

Trade war and consumer debt pose risks to truck market.

The truck market, much like the economy as a whole, is vulnerable to risk associated with the US trade war with China. US manufacturers and farmers are struggling to compete on the tilted global playing field, according to ACT, which cited the US consumer as the key driver of mid-term growth.

Others have cited record levels of consumer debt as a cautionary tale. Total household debt increased by $192 billion (1.4%) to $13.86 trillion in Q2 2019. That was the 20th consecutive quarter with an increase, and the total is now $1.2 trillion higher, in nominal terms, than the previous peak of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008. As Q3 of 2008 began, the Great Recession took off, and it would last 18 months.

September results for truck manufacturers.

  • Daimler Trucks (Freightliner and Western Star): Most of September’s gain can be attributed to market leader
  • Freightliner. It posted sales of 11,654, up 38.5% from 8,415 a year earlier. Its September total was about 3,300 more than Freightliner’s monthly average of 8,300 from January to August, according to Ward’s. Western Star saw sales climb to 717 compared with 386 a year earlier. Both brands were up YTD: Freightliner up 22% and Western Star up 19.6%.
  • Paccar (Peterbilt and Kenworth): Peterbilt saw sales rise 2.2% to 3,718 compared with the 2018 period. Kenworth posted sales of 3,832. That was an increase of 3.8% from a year earlier.
  • Volvo Group (Mack and Volvo): In September, Mack posted a 79.1% jump to 2,794. Through August, its monthly sales average in 2019 was 1,600. Volvo saw sales fall 15.7% to 1,951.
  • Navistar (International): International saw a 1.5% decline in sales to 3,590 compared with a year earlier.

Retails sales for class truck sales by manufacturer

Ritchie Bros. offers plenty of options for truck buyers – and sellers.

The third quarter of 2019 marked the highest third quarter truck sales in North America (US, Canada and Mexico) at Ritchie Bros., with over 6,500 units sold through our platforms, beating last year’s 5,600 units (a Q3 record at the time). It ranks as the second highest quarter for trucks sold behind Q2 2019 (6,900 trucks).

In November and December, we have more than 4,200 transport trucks to sell across platforms in North America (as of Oct 31). At this point, the pace of truck sales at Ritchie Bros. will likely continue. Customers know they will have many options, including TruckPlanet, Marketplace-E, and Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, for buying and selling trucks across our channels. We sell thousands of used trucks every month and can help you get the returns you need.

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