May 2024: Truck Orders Rise, Jobs Decrease

Intriguing data points in the trucking industry saw some ups and downs in May. On the one hand, orders for heavy-duty trucks saw an increase, while on the other, industry job growth over the 30-day period stalled.

Truck orders rose in May

Transportation analytics provider FTR reported that Class 8 (heavy-duty commercial trucks) net orders for May totaled 18,900 units. Last month’s tally marks a 25 percent month-over-month ascent from April, while representing a greater 37 percent year-over-year climb from May 2023.

FTR noted that May’s level of orders overshot recent demand trends and, when compared to the previous performances of this month over the past decade, the 2024 installment was two percent above the average of this ten-year period.  

While Class 8 order levels are not necessarily a direct indicator to a present trove of available freight that is ready to be hauled, it can be interpreted as a promising metric for confidence in the long-term truckload market.

In the case of May’s results, it can be said that buyers—motor carriers and fleets—remain prioritizing investments in new equipment despite short-term concerns of a weak freight market. As a result, original equipment manufacturers—those who produce commercial trucks—continue to fill build slots at a steady pace.

Truck transportation jobs decreased in May

However, in the realm of industry employment, May did not represent an area of growth. Truck transportation jobs declined in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

From April to May, seasonally adjusted jobs fell by 5,400, decreasing to an estimated total of 1,550,100. This number of transportation jobs is parallel to what the BLS reported in November.

The erasure of over 5,000 jobs in the industry is one of the largest month-over-month drops since 2020. Many experts anticipated such a decline in employment levels following this year’s sustaining trend of weaker market conditions. Low spot, or open-market, rates have sunken contract rates, prompting carriers to make reductions to their driver-workforces.

That said, the reported decrease in jobs was seasonally adjusted. Traditionally, May is a laboring month for job additions due to seasonal impacts. Among several include graduations, end-of-school, and holidays. These factors often make this time of year a less active period for companies to hire-on new employees.

The BLS reports for May that not seasonally adjusted truck jobs rose by nearly 10,000 from April to a total of 1,548,000.

While the bridge between April and May reared a notable decline in truck transportation jobs, the loss is not nearly as emphatic as what occurred between July and August of 2023, following the closure of LTL giant Yellow Corp.  In what is the largest post-pandemic decline for trucking jobs, the BLS reported a drop of 31,600 jobs within that period.

Final Thoughts

Recent reports indicate that the summer months may bring with them a boost in shipping demand. If this happens to be the case, market conditions will strengthen and lift rates, a reassuring development for anxious carriers.

Contact one of our team members if you have any questions regarding this topic or any others in domestic and cross-border logistics.

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