ACT Research: Class 8 Backlog on a Downward Trajectory until 2024 Orderboards Open

ACT Research Co.
3 min readJun 19, 2023

The most notable data points this month were heavy duty and medium duty retail sales, each up double digits y/y. Heavy duty cancellations moderated m/m and backlog continues to trend lower, but units scheduled for 2H’23 took a meaningful step higher. Coupling the annual seasonally weak period for orders (typically April-August), with a healthy supply chain enabling and elevating production, the Class 8 backlog should be on a downward trajectory until 2024 orderboards open, according to ACT Research’s latest State of the Industry: NA Classes 5–8 report.

Total Class 8: N.A. Backlog & BL/BU Ratio

According to Eric Crawford, ACT Research’s Vice President, Senior Analyst, “May’s backlog met expectations, down 13.9k units m/m to 189.2k, and the backlog-to-build ratio decreased 30 basis points m/m to 6.7 months (7.0 seasonally adjusted).” He continued, “Heavy duty and medium duty production were essentially in line with build plans. May’s Class 8 build rate was a healthy 1,343 units per day, representing the ninth month in the past 12 where build rate exceeded 1,300 units per day.”

Regarding sales, he noted, “Heavy duty retail sales remain robust, up 14% y/y at 29,700 units, seasonally adjusted, equivalent to a 357k SAAR. Seasonally adjusted, sales have exceeded 29k units in five of the past six months. Classes 5–7 retail sales were up 26% y/y at 22,800 units.”

Crawford concluded, “We expect positive momentum to slow in 2H’23 (more so in Q4). Already, one of the critical components of heavy vehicle demand, carrier profitability, is increasingly under pressure. In Q1, the public carriers’ profits declined to levels last seen in early 2020. While some of the decline was seasonal, public TL carrier margins were down 250bps y/y. With contract rates expected to deteriorate into Q4, profit margins should continue to narrow.”

ACT Research: State of the Industry N.A. Truck Vehicles Classes 5–8

ACT’s State of the Industry: NA Classes 5–8 report provides a monthly look at the current production, sales, and general state of the on-road heavy and medium duty commercial vehicle markets in North America. It differentiates market indicators by Class 5, Classes 6–7 chassis and Class 8 trucks and tractors, detailing measures such as backlog, build, inventory, new orders, cancellations, net orders, and retail sales. Additionally, Class 5 and Classes 6–7 are segmented by trucks, buses, RVs, and step van configurations, while Class 8 is segmented by trucks and tractors with and without sleeper cabs. This report includes a six-month industry build plan, backlog timing analysis, historical data from 1996 to the present in spreadsheet format, and a ready-to-use graph package. A first look at preliminary net orders is also published in conjunction with this report.

ACT Research is recognized as the leading publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasts for the North America and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies. ACT Research is a contributor to the Blue Chip Economic Indicators and a member of the Wall Street Journal Economic Forecast Panel. ACT Research executives have received peer recognition, including election to the Board of Directors of the National Association for Business Economics, appointment as Consulting Economist to the National Private Truck Council, and the Lawrence R. Klein Award for Blue Chip Economic Indicators’ Most Accurate Economic Forecast over a four-year period. ACT Research senior staff members have earned accolades including Chicago Federal Reserve Automotive Outlook Symposium Best Overall Forecast, Wall Street Journal Top Economic Outlook, and USA Today Top 10 Economic Forecasters. More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

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ACT Research Co.

ACT Research is the leader in commercial vehicle industry data, market analysis, and forecasting services for North America.