Strong Class 8 truck orders forecast ahead of 2027 regs

While 2024 orders are expected to dip, 2027 regs will propel growth and decarbonization

January preliminary North America Class 8 net orders were 27,000 units, up 600 units from December and 45% from a year ago, according to preliminary data from ACT Research. An 11% seasonal adjustment pushed Class 8 intake to 24,300 units, a 17% increase from December.

The increase came despite weakness in freight and carrier profitability fundamentals and lower capex guidance from large carriers for 2024. “While we do not yet have the underlying detail for January orders, Class 8 demand continuing at high levels at the start of 2024 suggests that over-the-road US truckers are still buying,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst.

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Net orders for Class 5-7 trucks were 20,300 units for the month, a 16% increase year over year. “Unlike Class 8, [medium-duty] seasonality is modestly positive in January, boosting the seasonally adjusted order tally to 20,800 units, down 21% m/m from a tough best-month-of-2023 December comp,” Veith stated.

Class 8 electric truck charging CARB’s Advanced Clean Trucks regulation is expected to push BEV adoption in Class 8 trucks. (Photo: KHL Staff)

Impact of 2027 regulations

Although 2024 Class 8 sales are expected to slip, ACT Research is anticipating a significant increase in total tractor unit sales longer term. Sales are expected to surge in 2026 ahead of the U.S. EPA 2027 low-NOx regulations going into effect.

Yet, while its recently released decarbonization forecast, North America Commercial Vehicle OUTLOOK Plus, expects advancements in zero-emission technologies of battery-electric vehicles (BEV), fuel cell-electric vehicles (FCEV) and natural gas (NG) as alternative decarbonization technologies, adoption rates will continue lag leading up to the regulation’s implementation.

“We forecast relatively low adoption rates in 2025 and 2026, as BEV sales of commercial vehicles are still in their early years,” said Ann Rundle, ACT’s VP, Electrification & Autonomy. She anticipates supply-side considerations, including infrastructure challenges, to keep adoption rates relatively constrained, but expects this will begin to change in 2027.

Volumes for FCEV trucks are expected to remain relatively low from 2025 through 2029. (Photo: KHL Staff)

Medium-duty applications continue to be the sweet spot for BEV adoption. However, Lydia Vieth, ACT’s research analyst, Electrification & Autonomy, believes CARB’s Advanced Clean Trucks regulation will help push BEV adoption in Class 8, especially tractors, through the end of the decade. Beyond 2030, she expects the more advantageous TCO for heavy-duty BEVs to become the primary driving force for adoption in higher GWV applications.

Volumes for FCEV trucks, on the other hand, are forecast to remain relatively low from 2025 through 2029, due to their higher TCO compared to diesel, NG and BEV, she continued. “In addition to higher costs, the limited hydrogen fueling infrastructure will restrict adoption to fleets and routes where H2 fueling is available.”

ACT’s near-term NG forecast calls for relatively flat unit sales volumes, independent of top-line Class 8 truck volumes, Rundle added.

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