ACT Research found that demand for Class 8 trucks entered into December with 40,925 units ordered the previous month. Those are big number for sure, and ACT said it was the fifth best month since the research company began collecting data in the 1980s.
More than 336,000 trucks have been ordered since the beginning of 2014, up 42.4% from December 2013. There is also a large, per-day backlog of Class 8 trucks, the largest since October of 2006.
According to Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst of ACT, “After a strong run from August to October that was in part augmented by the annual school bus order surge, medium duty orders pulled back in November.”
Vieth said the impact of the HOS legislation reversal is expected to be a positive for driver productivity and fleet utilization. However, the impact would likely be temporary. “The estimated benefit of rollback reversal is restrained by the change in practices undertaken by motor transportation operators over the last 18 months to comply with HOS,” said Vieth.
While the restart rollback is positive for fleet profitability, ACT expects the impact on truck productivity will not detract noticeably from the strong retail market levels they see coming for the next two years. Good news for an industry that has had to weather some tough times through recessions and economic slow downs.
There is little doubt that the driver shortage is for real and that federal regulatory restrictions are hampering potential productivity within every sector of the industry.
Long-haul operations have seen a plateauing to 2,050 to 2,150 miles per week per truck. Analysts say that a decade ago you would see 2,790 to 2,900 miles per week. Fewer miles mean more trucks are required to move the same amount of freight. The challenge for the industry struggling to maintain slim margins is to put more trucks on the road when they can’t find enough drivers.
Trucking fleets are doing all they can to improve their daily productivity on the trucks they have. From high-tech routing software and moving to drop-and-hook operations, to light-weighting and double-decking systems, any potential solution is a solution worth investigating.
Relaxed federal laws for immigration are viewed as one potential opportunity for the industry to get the one-time influx of drivers. The potential mix of veteran and new drivers is a worthwhile target for fleet managers who need to find any chance to increase capacity. Buying new trucks is simply a by-product of a growing demand in the economic footprint. Analysts expect the growth in truck sales to keep on its pace into Q2, with the potential to fire up another run if changes occur in some pending regulations that would ease driver availability and add new blood to the fleet driving teams.