INDIANAPOLIS — Depending on one's perspective, future Class 8 trucks and trailer production could see relief in 2023 — or be further constrained by a recession.
Forecaster Don Ake and analyst Jeffrey Kauffman gave differing viewpoints for how equipment orders could play out this year and beyond, while speaking Sept. 13 for the annual FTR Transportation Conference.
Ake, FTR’s vice president for commercial vehicles, projected that North American Class 8 truck factory shipments will increase from 296,000 for this year to 320,000 for next year amid pent-up demand.
Ake estimates that carriers are seeking to replace 65,000 trucks. He said that's slated to happen despite what happens with the economy — unless conditions become really severe.
The projection assumes there won't be a recession and does not factor in other risks such as inflation and high interest rates.
Truck orders remain low despite August rise
Meanwhile, U.S. trailer production could increase from 305,000 this year to 325,000 next year, according to Ake.
"Every segment has pent-up demand," he said during a presentation. "If we didn't have the supply chain issue, we would be operating at record production numbers."
Kauffman, a principal at Vertical Research Partners, delivered a contrasting view by noting pent-up demand can be fleeting. He said housing executives thought that kind of demand would continue in 2006, and e-commerce companies repeated that thinking in 2020.
"It can go away as fast as it shows up," he said during a separate presentation later that day.
Kauffman predicted risks over the next 18 months as a 60% chance of a mild recession, 20% for a severe recession, 15% for no growth or stagnation and 5% for growth at the current trend or better.
In discussing how carriers should handle the economic uncertainty, he likened the dilemma to preparing for an upcoming hurricane and having a weather forecaster present probabilities.
"It may not look bad outside," Kauffman said. "Do you think the right course of action is to hope that the storm turns and misses you?"
Depending on the economy and market, equipment production could worsen from this year to next, Kauffman said. Trailer production could decline from 287,000 to 267,000 by next year, and Class 8 orders could drop from 280,000 this year to 240,000 next year before improving.