Order data for heavy trucks and trailers indicates demand for new equipment remains very weak – weaker, in some cases, than levels seen last year. According to preliminary data compiled by FTR Associates, orders for Class 8 trucks are staying below last year’s levels, indicating a sales recovery for heavy trucks may still be a ways off.

FTR said total net Class 8 orders for all major North American OEM’s in February – which includes U.S., Canada, Mexico and exports – came in at 7,628 units. That’s 19.7% higher than January, when orders were the lowest since 2002, but still significantly below the 2009 monthly order average of 10,064 units, the research firm said

“The February numbers were what we expected,” said Eric Starks, FTR president. “Our forecast models continue to predict slow recovery in new Class 8 orders impacted by 2010 EPA emission regulations and the large inventory of useable vehicles in the market. We don't expect a good bounce in Class 8 demand until 2011.”

The same weakness is also being felt on the trailer side of the trucking equipment ledger. According to ACT Research Co., January commercial trailer net orders were up 10% from the same month in 2008 and relatively consistent with weak recent trends. However, performance within individual trailer segments varied widely from strong to weak, noted Kenny Vieth, a partner and senior analyst with ACT.

He added the dry van segment was the only category where January net orders were consistent with recent trends, with the flatbed and heavy lowbed markets – both closely tied to the construction sector – posting very weak net orders. Reefer vans, along with tanks and dumps, posted stronger net order numbers in January.

“Consistent with what we are seeing in the overall economy, sector performance can vary materially while the overall economy trudges slowly forward,” said Vieth. “The outlook for trailer production going forward should be slightly positive as backlogs begin to build and inventories remain relatively low.”