There is a palpable feeling of relief as we are in the final stretch of the year and the harvest season is upon us. Farming is a huge industry back home in Muncie, Indiana. And there’s a saying that if you have the fortune of enjoying a bountiful harvest, it’s because you reap what you sow. In that spirit, the resilient and hard-working commercial truck dealers of America can look to a robust sales forecast. While sales trickled in the first half of the year—particularly from March through May—the pent-up demand from low orders during the pandemic is now pushing truck orders to their strongest levels. This is the fourth month in a row that medium- and heavy-duty truck orders are showing consecutive gains for the first time in 2020.
Since September, fleets have been gaining more confidence and the commercial truck industry has been seeing an uptick in equipment orders. September order activity for Class 8 trucks surged 55% month-over-month and 160% year-over-year according to ACT research. The Class 5-7 market saw orders rise 37% month-over-month and 48% over 2019. These numbers indicate a robust economic and freight recovery where rates are improving, and customers are returning to dealerships. This gives truck dealers the window of opportunity they have waited patiently for through the COVID-19 pandemic when unprecedented state-wide shutdowns hampered truck sales. But dealers around the country remained open as essential businesses, continued to work through the year, and prepared for the turning point that we knew would eventually happen in an industry as strong as ours.
NADA’s chief economist, Patrick Manzi, put the brightening forecast into perspective: “Remember that 2019 was the second-best sales year of all time for Class 8 trucks,” he said. “The market in the third quarter showed slight improvements compared to the second quarter of 2020. ATD expects continued improvement into the fourth quarter, but we won’t reach sales levels seen in 2019.”
Despite the challenges of this year, truck dealers continued to work hard to keep the ground fertile so that our markets could grow through even the toughest conditions. It’s not unlike how I have seen some of the best Hoosier farmers pull through during droughts, storms, and unseasonable conditions. Now we have the fortune to bounce back and see positive sales gains. I’m confident that truck dealers will capitalize on these good conditions, and we will continue to provide our customers the best trucks they need through the fall season.