Demand is off the charts. Why are truck orders down in November?
Preliminary Class-8 truck orders fell in November to 9,500 units, down 41% from October and 82% lower than November 2020, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence. At that rate, November orders are the lowest for the month since 1995.
Why so few truck orders when capacity is in short supply?
Truck OEMs don’t want to “extend the cycle of customer expectations management,” said Kenny Vieth, president and senior industry analyst at ACT Research, which reported a dip in orders to 9,800 units.
So they’re turning down orders.
“Looking to October data, the last full month of data in hand, the Class-8 backlog was nearly 281,000 units,” he explained. “At October’s build rate, the backlog-to-build ratio was 14.6 months.”
Truck production is so backed up that OEMs don’t want to overpromise their ability to deliver in 2022.
“The low order numbers in November in no way are representative of total demand,” Don Ake, VP of commercial vehicles for FTR, pointed out. “The weak volumes are because OEMs are managing their backlogs very carefully. After overbooking almost every month in 2021, the OEMs are being extremely meticulous about scheduling commitments in 2022.”
Vaccine mandate for Canada-U.S. crossings applies to truckers
Canada will require drivers coming into the country to be fully vaccinated starting on Jan. 15, while the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security said inbound foreign travelers must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination by next month. DHS has not set a firm date for compliance.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance estimates that as many as 20% of Canadian truck drivers, or 22,000 people, would be unable to comply when the restrictions take effect. The CTA said 40%, or some 16,000 of U.S. truck drivers traveling into Canada would be sidelined.
American Trucking Associations chief economist Bob Costello noted that the Canadian government is not planning to offer exemptions for truck drivers who have not received a vaccine. “You should prepare for mid-January,” he said. “Drivers are going to have to show proof of vaccination to enter Canada. I would say this is not going to change.”
Ports of Savannah, Charleston scale up for container surge
The Georgia Ports Authority is accelerating a $150 million expansion at the Port of Savannah in response to a surge in cargo volumes. The plan will increase the port’s capacity for cargo containers by 25% by next June, and more than a third of that new capacity should be ready by January. Ultimately, the Port of Savannah—the second-largest port on the East Coast in terms of TEU volume—will be capable of handling 1.6 million additional cargo containers per year.
The Port of Charleston is on track to deepen its harbor to 52 feet in 2022, which would make it the deepest harbor on the East Coast. The entrance channel is also being deepened to 54 feet, up from 47 feet. The additional seven feet of depth in Charleston Harbor—at a cost of $565 million—will enable post-Panamax vessels to call on the Port of Charleston any time, any tide.