ACT Research: Classes 5–8 Production Exceeded Build Plans Again; Retail Sales Remain Robust

ACT Research Co.
3 min readMay 18, 2023

Given the relatively weak environment for orders, combined with a fairly healthy supply chain, Class 8 backlog should be on a downward trajectory until 2024 orderboards open. April was no exception, with backlog down 15.1k units m/m to 203.1k, according to ACT Research’s latest State of the Industry: NA Classes 5–8 report.

a graph showing total Class 8 North American backlog and backlog-to-build ratio with data from January 2022 through April 2023
Total Class 8: N.A. Backlog & BL/BU Ratio

According to Eric Crawford, ACT Research’s Vice President, Senior Analyst, “As supply conditions have improved, so has output. Evidencing this trend, heavy-duty and medium-duty production each exceeded build plans (again) in April. The Class 8 build rate in April was 1,384 upd, 6% above industry build plan. The industry produced 26,302 Class 8 units across April’s 19 production days. Classes 5–7 build averaged 1,192 upd, 13% above build plan. April’s build rate was the highest in nearly four years (since August 2019). The industry produced 22,650 units across April’s 19 build days.”

Regarding sales, he noted, “Heavy-duty and medium-duty retail sales remain robust, and each rose double digits y/y in April. The heavy-duty unit per day rate, 1,431 seasonally adjusted, was its highest in nearly four years, and the medium-duty rate, 1,009 seasonally adjusted, was its highest in 18 months.”

Crawford concluded, “We expect positive momentum to slow in 2H’23, as the impact of prior Fed rate increases takes hold (and additional rate increases may still be yet to come), and the cumulative impact of depressed freight rates over an extended period weighs on pent-up demand.”

ACT Research State of the Industry: NA 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.