Commercial truck sales started the year off well, with total sales of 98,404—an increase of 15.8% from first quarter 2020. Heavy-duty truck sales totaled 47,515 and medium-duty sales totaled 50,889 in Q1 2021, up 14.1% and 17.4% respectively from Q1 2020. Sales increased due to increasing demand from freight companies, but also because Q1 2020 was the first quarter where sales were slammed by COVID-19. The pandemic’s impact is clearer when looking at total commercial truck sales this March, which were up by 36.7% from March 2020. Expect similar jumps in sales in Q2 2021, as the industry will certainly post significant gains compared with the lows seen in the initial months of COVID-19.
Orders for Class 8 trucks continue to skyrocket. According to ACT Research, Class 8 truck orders in March were 40,000 units, down slightly from February’s 44,191 but up by 424% from March 2020. This March marked the sixth straight month that orders topped 40,000 units. Class 8 orders were well above replacement demand, which is around 19,000 units per month. Class 8 demand should be strong for at least the next few months as freight companies place orders in response to customer demand and elevated freight rates.
The semiconductor microchip shortage that has hurt light-duty vehicle sales is also slowing commercial-truck production, with some OEMs reporting production shortfalls in Q1 2021. Shortages of rubber and resin, both key to vehicle production, have also caused headaches for OEMs. These supply chain issues sting a little more, given strong demand for freight amid the economic recovery from the pandemic and just as the Biden administration has landed $1.9 trillion in new stimulus spending. These supply issues on the new-truck side should cause a tailwind for used-truck sales. Despite these challenges, look for continued sales improvement throughout the rest of the year. For 2021, we expect medium-duty truck sales of around 240,000 units and heavy-duty truck sales of some 250,000.