ACT Research: Pent-Up Equipment Demand Likely to Fade into Year End, Though Vocational Truck Demand Remains Strong

ACT Research Co.
3 min readSep 20, 2023

On continued strong build rates and seasonally weak order volumes, the Class 8 backlog fell by 11,000 units to 152,600 units. At 5.3 months, the nominal backlog-to-build ratio is the lowest it’s been since fall 2020, as published in ACT Research’s latest State of the Industry: NA Classes 5–8 report.

a graph showing the total Class 8 North America backlog and backlog-to-build ratio with data from January 2002 through August 2023
Total Class 8: N.A. Backlog & BL/BU Ratio

According to Kenny Vieth, ACT’s President and Senior Analyst, “The Class 8 backlog is likely to turn higher in the near term as 2024 order season begins.” On medium duty, he continued, “The Classes 5–7 backlog fell 3,100 units to 113,900 units in August. The backlog-to-build ratio rose to 5.3 months from 4.7 in July on a lower daily build rate.”

Regarding orders, he added, “August is one of the weakest months of the year for Class 8 orders, as out-year orderboards are not typically fully open. While the tractor market appears under pressure heading into 2024 amid weak freight and falling carrier profits, vocational truck demand remains strong. August saw net orders up 3,900 units m/m to 19,500 units, with vocational trucks accounting for 42% of orders in August, well above the historical average around 29%.”

Vieth concluded, “Even with an outperforming economy providing demand-side relief, freight markets continue to bounce along the cycle bottom, with for-hire demand muted as private fleets add capacity and insource freight. Pent-up equipment demand, especially for tractors, is likely to fade into year end, but build plans aren’t yet showing the effects of sharp declines in freight rates and carrier profits.”

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.