Net Class 8 truck orders for last month indicate continuing soft demand in the marketplace, according to preliminary figures released by two major forecasting firms.

According to FTR Associates, its preliminary data shows July Class 8 truck net orders at 12,568 units. FTR said that figure marks, the lowest month for orders since August 2010 and is 32% below the same month last year.

What’s more, FTR pointed out that the July orders came in 23% below June’s weak level and thus continue to reflect soft demand for Class 8 vehicles.  For the three-month period including July, orders now annualize to 186,300 units, FTR noted. 

“While orders came in below expectations, they didn't really surprise us,” remarked FTR president Eric Starks. “We have been forecasting slower sales of Class 8 vehicles in the second half of 2012 for some time, and the reported order numbers for July support our current outlook for the remainder of the year.” 

Final data for July Class 8 orders will be available from FTR later in the month as part of its North American Commercial Truck & Trailer Outlook service

ACT Research Co. LLC said preliminary net Orders for July were “below trend.” ACT said its final numbers, to be released in mid-August, will approach 12,900 Class 8 trucks. The firm noted that preliminary net order numbers are typically accurate to within 5% of actual.

ACT also reported that Class 5-7 net truck orders “bounced back above the long-run order trend.” Those final numbers will reach 14,800 units, according to ACT

“Class 8 orders fell below our near-term expectations, even when adjusted for seasonality,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president & senior analyst. “Seasonal adjustment pushes July’s Class 8 net orders total from the actual 12,900 units to 15,400 units. In Q2, net orders averaged 17,300 units per month, even as Class 8 builds averaged 26,000 units.

“As has been the case since late February/early March, the order weakness appears to boil down to confidence in the economy relative to the risk of taking out a sizeable loan to buy a truck,” he continued.

 “Positively, Class 8 cancellations remained at low levels and retail sales were strong through Q2, reflecting the continued support of large trucking concerns,” noted Vieth. “The big public carriers posted strong profits on modest revenue growth in Q2.

“These data points and others suggest that as the economy firms and the outlook becomes less opaque, demand should return to pre-soft-patch levels,” he added.