May 20, 2024

Truck demand, market returns to strength

COVID-related supply chain issues and delays in getting parts and components continue to haunt the trucking industry. Kyle Zwicker, based at the Troy, Illinois, location of CIT Trucks, said suppliers of parts such as steering gear, axles and electrical components continue to deal with constraints that ultimately impact CIT Trucks and their customers. Original Equipment Manufacturers, OEMs, continue to operate on an allocation system, in which dealers have only a certain allocated number of new power units to sell. Zwicker said demand for new power units is so strong that all the units that the dealership orders are sold before they arrive.

DECATUR, Ill. — The demand for trucks is strong. But the supply? Well, be ready to wait if you want a new power unit.

“You won’t see a stock truck on our lot. Everything has been sold before it gets here,” said Kyle Zwicker, truck sales representative at CIT Trucks.

Zwicker said the industry still faces some of the supply chain challenges that were highlighted by the COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020.

“We are still heavily constrained as far as certain components. During COVID in 2020, there were extended shutdowns in the industry, maybe not your main tier suppliers like Kenworth and some of the other OEMs, their shutdowns were limited to six, seven, eight weeks. It’s been mainly the downstream suppliers, the places that make steering gear, axles, a lot of the electrical components,” he said.

The computer chip shortage also continues to affect the availability of new trucks.

“We still face challenges with electrical connectors and the chip shortage is still a real thing,” Zwicker said.

On the bright side, the demand for new and used power units is strong.

“Demand for units still is really strong. From the standpoint of the used market, it shot way up and it crested about 18 months ago and has started to come down. The daycab market will never, ever go all the way down. It’s always been strong, even in a recession,” Zwicker said.

The OEMs, original equipment manufacturers, continue to be on an allocation basis due to ongoing component shortages.

“Dealers only have a certain number of trucks to sell,” the sales representative said.

Zwicker works at the Troy location, which specializes in Kenworth. That brand continues to be popular in the agriculture truck market.

“The T800, the T880, the W9, the W990s and the long hood versions have always been popular in the ag market and have done well and continue to do well, from folks buying their first truck to the used market,” Zwicker said.

Another factor that continues to impact the availability and supply of both parts and power units is environmental regulations and emissions requirements.

“You’ve got hundreds, if not thousands, of parts, from the engines to the emissions system. It never fails that the one component you need is the one you can’t get, but we have worked our way through a lot of that. The emissions requirements haven’t helped, but it’s the world we live in,” Zwicker said.

While 2024 won’t bring new requirements, Zwicker said the industry is currently considering the impacts of an Environmental Protection Agency proposal, announced in April, that would further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, specifically nitrous oxides, from heavy-duty trucks, starting with model year 2027 units.

“There are going to be more regulations that we have to deal with, more complexity, and, in the ag market, that’s the frustration. These trucks are tools to haul product. They are not the main part of the business. Our customers need them to run and they need them to run reliably. These regulations add frustration and uncertainty to not only buyers, but to dealers and OEMs,” he said.

When it comes to electric trucks, Zwicker said he doesn’t see them as something that is on the immediate horizon in the Midwest agriculture truck transportation market.

“Kenworth makes a couple of electric vehicles, one in a Class 6/Class 7 straight truck application and they do make a unit that is, at this point, isolated to the coasts. The infrastructure for electric trucks is absolutely not in place here and I don’t see them as something that is on the near horizon, at least, not in this market,” he said.

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor