Truck OEMs ended 2013 on a high note as preliminary data from two research-and-forecasting firms shows that Class 8 net orders shot up markedly for the month of December.

According to ACT Research, North American Class 8 net orders are expected to come in at 31,800 units (±5%) once actual [final] data is available mid-month.

And preliminary data just released by transportation forecasting firm FTR Associates, indicates December saw Class 8 truck net orders “surge” to 31,506 units.

The company characterized this upward movement as “a significant jump of 50% from the previous month-- and [it marks] the first month [Class 8] orders have been above 30,000 since April. 2011.”

What’s more, FTR said that data reveals last month as the highest December total in eight years, given its 51% year-over-year improvement.

“December Class 8 orders were up 50% month over month and year over year,” related ACT president & senior analyst Kenny Vieth.

Vieth indicated that the positive performance Class 8 racked up was not out of the ordinary.

“This is the time of the year when the large fleets and leasing companies are in the market and large Class 8 order volumes are most likely,” he remarked.  “As such, an above-trend number was expected.”

FTR pointed out that the December order activity boosted the annualized rate for the past six-month period to 269,000 units for all major North American truck OEMs.

"[Class 8] Orders were exceptionally strong in December and order activity was well balanced across sectors and manufacturers,” commented Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles.

He pointed out that reviewing the Class 8 order data over the last two months reveals an average of 26,200 units—“and that is exactly in line with what our expectations were for orders just a few months ago." 

“The strong [December] showing puts OEMs on track to meet first-quarter targets and provides momentum headed into the second quarter,” he continued.

“Fleets and dealers are showing more optimism,” Ake observed. “This is a very welcome sign and good news for the industry.”

Ake told FleetOwner that while October’s Class 8 net orders were “good but not good enough given the backlog and other factors” and November’s were “disappointing,” the December showing is strong enough to suggest that there is “a transformation back to optimism taking place [in the truck market]— a shift away from everyone being so cautious for so long.

“Take the fourth-quarter order numbers as a whole,” he continued. “Look at that total activity and it is positive. Still, no one is willing to be the one that signals an upturn is under way.”

Ake noted that it “does look like larger fleets are placing truck orders throughout the year, that is further out, which indicates those fleets are taking a less cautious view” of the business environment.

As for medium-duty (Class 5-7) trucks, according to ACT’s Vieth, December’s North American net orders are expected to finish at 14,200 units (±5%). He advised that last month, Class 5-7 orders pulled back following several strong order months.

“However,” Vieth added, the “Class 5-7 [net] orders of 51,800 for the fourth quarter represent the best quarterly intake since the first quarter of 2008.”