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TRUCK sales continued to fall through August as the pandemic squeezed the economy, however there are some signs that September could be better and lead to improvements through the rest of the year.

The Truck Industry Council (TIC), reporting on the August sales, said falling sales continued the trend that had been building over the past few months.

However, it said the drop in sales of the medium-duty and light-duty truck and van sectors was accelerating.

TIC CEO Tony McMullan said economic conditions in Australia continued to worsen “with our economy now in a technical recession for the first time in 29 years, due entirely to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“There is also no doubt that August heavy-vehicle sales have been directly impacted by the worsening Covid-19 situation in Victoria in July and August,” he said.

“With signs that conditions in Victoria are improving, we hope to see truck and van sales recover a little in September and October, over the August result lows.”

Mr McMullan said the August data showed that the heavy-duty truck segment, although still down, outperformed the other heavy-vehicle sectors.

“Australia faces a long road ahead, however I have no doubt that the truck industry will continue to provide the essential road-freight services required during these difficult times,” he said.

In its report, the TIC said the Australian new truck and heavy-van market (vehicles with a gross vehicle mass above 3500kg) continued to slow with sales in the month of August 2020 down a significant 20.7 per cent over the same month last year.

In turn, August 2019 sales were down 14.3 per cent over August 2018. That means that the latest August figures represent a market reduction for the month of August 2020 of 35 per cent over the past two years.

“Year-to-date heavy vehicle sales are tracking 13.5 percent lower than last year, whilst compared to this time in 2018, sales are down 20.0 percent to the end of August,” the TIC report said.

“In terms of actual vehicles, 3425 fewer trucks have been sold thus far in 2020 compared to year-to-date August 2019.”

Unlike previous months this year, the heavy-duty (HD) truck sector fared the best of the heavy-vehicle segments in August. There were 821 HD trucks delivered in August, down 16.7 per cent (or 165 trucks) over August 2019.

The year-to-date trend is not as positive for the segment, with HD sales tracking 22.8 per cent lower than over the same period in 2019, representing 1921 fewer trucks sold. Total sales for 2020 now stands at 6522 trucks in this segment.

The TIC said that the medium-duty (MD) truck segment has struggled since the start of 2020 with the segment posting the second-largest percentage loss in August.

Only 484 MD trucks were sold in August 2020, equivalent to 24.8 per cent (or 160 units) fewer sales than in August 2019. The poor August result drags the year-to-date MD segment sales lower, now tracking 14.5 per cent (or 732 fewer units) below the same period last year. This year, 4319 MD trucks have been sold.

In the light-duty (LD) truck segment, sales are consistent, but down, when compared to 2019 results. However the segment has performed better than all others so far this year.

The TIC said the August LD result was therefore somewhat alarming with a single-month drop of 17.5 per cent (or 180 trucks), that being almost three times as great as the yearly percentage trend to the end of August.

That year-to-date deficit is running at 6.4 per cent, amounting to 488 fewer LD truck sales in 2020 compared to 2019. A total of 849 trucks were sold in the month of August, while the total LD truck tally for the year-to-date is 7093.

Van sales in August took an even bigger hit than their LD truck cousins, down 27.6 per cent (or 176 less units) for the month with sales of 462 vans.

The August van sales result was more than four times worse than the year-to-date percentage trend of down 6.6 per cent. Year-to-date, 4021 new van sales have been recorded to the end of August, down 284 sales over the same period in 2019.

By Neil Dowling

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