Sales of new trucks across the globe are projected to stay below recent “peak levels” for several years to come, according to a recent analysis That’s no surprise to truckers in the U.S., given the steep rise in sticker prices due to new emission rules along with a freight market that is still down in the dumps.
Standard & Poor's is the latest research firm to note that demand around the world for new trucks over the next few years could remain far below the peak levels achieved in Europe in 2008 and for North America back in 2006.
“In our view, this will leave the industry in a position of persistent rather than temporary overcapacity, in spite of truck makers' ongoing cost cuts that are likely to improve financial results from the very weak levels of 2009,” Standard & Poor's said in its recent market analysis.
“In the current environment of low factory utilization, we see a risk that pricing will become increasingly competitive and that producers will be more vulnerable to raw material cost inflation than was the case in previous downturns,” the firm added.
Demand appears healthier in developing markets, such as Brazil, China, and India, although demand in Russia has been very weak of late, Standard & Poor’s reported. “But of those markets, only Brazil and neighboring South American countries have meaningfully contributed profits for the major global truck makers,” it said.
None of this analysis, however, surprises long-time observers of the trucking market. “The U.S. economy will grow much more slowly over the long term, so there will be no ‘ramp up’ in freight demand any time soon – and having such a ‘ramp up’ in freight is what will push equipment sales,” Eric Starks, president of research firm FTR Associates, told FleetOwner.
A similar situation regarding stagnant new truck sales occurred following the 1982 recession, he added. “We experienced a decent rebound [in truck sales] when we came out of the ’82 recession but then it fizzled out,” said Starks. “As a result, it took 15 years before we returned to a sales peak.”
Rosalyn Wilson, transportation consultant with the Delcan Corp. and author of the annual “State of Logistics Report,” has pointed out in her research that a long recovery period may be required for the U.S. trucking industry .
Pressure on rates forced some 2,000 trucking companies out of business last year, she noted, with another 2,000 carriers expected to close their doors this year due to higher operating costs and low demand for freight services.
And according data compiled by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the nation’s freight pool contracted by 12.5% in 2009 and heavy truck utilization is currently at about 75% – which is not enough to generate new truck sales, Wilson said.
She added that while capacity in the trucking industry is now much more in line with current demand, as freight grows, there isn’t sufficient parked capacity to quickly respond. “There is a large inventory of used trucks which could be picked up, but tight credit is going to hamper large investments in new trucks,” Wilson said.