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TRUCK sales have masked the economic crunch affecting other industry sectors such as passenger cars because of the long lead times of truck production and the subsequent delays when ordering a specialised body or equipment such as trailers.

That lag has caught up. It shows the true position of truck sales with May results being hit by the slowdown in the economy and the effects of COVID-19.

Sales of new heavy-duty trucks in May plunged by almost 40 per cent compared with May 2019, dragging the total truck sales down 26.3 per cent in the same period with only the light-duty truck segment providing some buoyancy.

Light-duty trucks slipped only 10 per cent in May 2020 compared with the previous corresponding period.

Year-to-date, the entire heavy truck market trails the end of May 2019 sales by 20.2 per cent with just one month remaining before we reach the halfway point of the year.

But in his summation of the May data, Truck Industry Council CEO Tony McMullan said that despite the plummeting sales the market had still not fallen to  the levels of May 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014 in the post Global Financial Crisis era which remain slightly worse than those of May 2020.

“The May heavy-duty and medium-duty sales numbers are more in-line with the economic downturn that we have seen in many sectors of the Australian economy,” Mr McMullan said.

“Light-duty truck sales are better than expected and that result may be a reflection on the $150,000 instant asset write-off put in place by the federal government.

“It is interesting to note that light-duty van sales are not responding to this incentive, as the van segment continues to decline after opening the year with strong sales in January and February.”

Mr McMullan said the TIC welcomed the extension of the federal government’s $150,000 instant asset write-off to the end of December.

“We are pleased to acknowledge the strong representations of ministers McCormack and Buchholzs who took TIC’s call for the extension direct to the treasurer meeting with success,” he said.

“TIC has also called for specific incentives to support the medium and heavy truck segments, with the release of these May sales figures offering proof that these segments are floundering under the current economic climate created by COVID-19.

“I again seek support from the Australian government to provide stimulus that will assist the entire heavy vehicle sector as we move to rebuild our economy over the coming months and years.”

In its review of the individual truck segments, the TIC recorded that heavy-duty sales were significantly impacted in May with only 756 heavy truck deliveries, down 37.6 per cent (or 456 trucks) over May 2019. Year-to-date, this segment has recorded just 3785 sales, down 26.3 per cent or 1349 fewer sales to the same point in 2019.

The medium-duty segment that bore the brunt of the current economic slowdown in April, down 29.9 per cent, witnessed a May result that was a mirror image of April with only 515 truck sales, down 29.8 per cent or 219 trucks compared with May 2019. Year-to-date the medium-duty truck numbers are only slightly better and only because of reasonable sales in the first quarter of 2020, it is now trailing the same period last year by 20.5 per cent or 611 trucks. Only 2368 medium-duty trucks have been sold this calendar year.

The light-duty truck market again saw quite mixed results, with it performing the best of any segment in May. However, light-duty van sales continue their poor performance.

Light-duty truck sales (trucks between 3500kg and 8000kg GVM) totalled 899 for the month of May, down 10.0 per cent (or 100 vehicles) over the May 2019 result. Year-to-date this segment is tracking lower, but sales remain quite consistent month to month, down 13.5 per cent (or 572 trucks). A total of 3672 Light trucks have been sold year-to-date in 2020.

The TIC said it was another poor month for light-duty van sales (vans with a GVM between 3500kg and 8000kg) with May being a far cry from the start of the year, where the van segment outperformed all the other heavy-vehicle segments.

Sales then fell away in March, more in April and as detailed above, continued their poor result in May. A total of only 451 Vans were sold in May, a fall of 26.2 per cent over May 2019 (or 160 vans).

The TIC said that while the year-to-date end of May result is a little better at down 18.6 per cent, mainly kept up by solid January and February sales. Only 2003 vans have been sold in 2020 which is 457 fewer light-duty van sales than in 2019.

By Neil Dowling