Medium-Duty trucks closed out the first quarter of 2021 in extravagant fashion, posting gains of 36.7% for the month of March. The increase in sales of class 4-7 trucks was led primarily by class 5 trucks, which saw 10,117 sales – a number significantly higher than the 6,241 that were sold last March.
Total sales for class 4-7 trucks in March were 23,575. Compared to the 17,244 sold last March, this shows a strong increase in demand for trucks, which suggests that the economy is getting back on track. As carriers and independent contractors continue to purchase more trucks, it suggests that there is more freight that is ready to haul. It also shows that there is not as much apprehension about spending money to secure better equipment.
The first quarter of 2020 was a rough one for truck manufacturers, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the economy. Some manufacturers had to close plants entirely, while others worked at reduced capacity to produce a smaller number of products. If a trucking firm did not have customers in the essential industries, they were left with very little freight to haul.
This meant that instead of adding new drivers and purchasing new equipment, these firms had to pare down their operations. The loss of revenue from a reduced number of shipments made it difficult to invest in new trucks. While some carriers were able to thrive thanks to a specific customer base, others faltered and many, unfortunately, were forced to shut down.
This unprecedented halt in manufacturing explains the sub-par numbers from last year. This year, with a vaccine readily available and most operations resuming at normal levels, it was expected that truck sales would increase. The numbers show that carriers feel better about their prospects and that they are already seeing an increase in available loads.
An even stronger sign of an economic recovery is the fact that Class 8 truck sales increased 400% year-over-year. For the 6th month in a row, over 40,000 Class 8 units were sold nationwide. With demand steadily increasing, there will likely be an extended need for heavy-duty trucks in order to keep up with the manufacturing boom. Plants and commercial tire warehouses are making up for business they lost in 2020 by churning out exponentially more product in 2021.
It is reasonable to expect that medium and heavy-duty truck sales will remain strong throughout 2021 as the economy continues to improve. Trucking firms have plenty of loads to choose from, and manufacturers are confident that they will benefit from strong demand for the rest of the year. Certain consumer habits that become prominent during the pandemic – such as online ordering and working from home – will likely lead to more demand for lighter trucks and final mile delivery. But the plants that produce these items in bulk will need the services of full truckload carriers.