Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) says it has bounced back following the worst of the Covid Crisis in America and is now building new trucks at pre-pandemic levels, rebounding from a situation in April that saw it have to standown around 15,000 workers and have virtually no production in April.
“Our backlog is into the fourth quarter and we have a lot of orders for 2021,” DTNA CEO Roger Nielsen told a virtual media briefing earlier this week.
“It’s been a tough year, five months ago today, on St. Patrick’s Day, we were wondering what our business was going to look like.”
The July retail volume of 27,000 trucks is repeatable each month for the rest of 2020, Nielsen said as he predicted an industry total of about 310,000 medium- and heavy-duty truck sales in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, compared with 492,000 in 2019.
“This is definitely not 2019,” Nielsen said.
DTNA’s Freightliner brand is the top selling Heavy Duty Class 8 trucks in the U.S. Its July sales volume was down 47 per cent on the same month last year below the same month in 2019., but Freightliner retained a 32.1 per cent market share.
Nielsen said that cyclical replacement demand for trucks with with around 800,000km on the clock began in 2019 and this makes up most of the current order bank.
The DTNA boss said that buyers such as grocery haulers and final-mile delivery are thriving during the pandemic in the USA and they are ordering new trucks but orders from hospitality and restaurant businesses are nearly non-existent.
“Definitely, you can see there’s been some winners and losers in there,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen explained that the impacts on DNTA from supply chain disruptions have been minimal, disrupting production for a day or two at a time but he did say that the COVID-19 infection rate in Mexico is a concern for the company which has has two plants South of the border.
“There hasn’t been a shortage yet that has completely brought us to our knees, and we’re grateful for that,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen said that DTNA is expanding trials of its eCascadia Class 8 day cab and eM2 Class 6 truck with a total of 38 trucks currently in test use in the states.
The first 30 trucks being run by major fleets NFI Industries and Penske Truck Leasing have amassed more than 600,000km, while the company has 60 direct current fast chargers with a total of 7 megawatts of power at customer locations, and it plans 150 chargers with a total of 20 megawatts.
“The public charging infrastructure is not to the point where you can rely upon it to supply your fleet with energy on your regular routes, which is why we have charging in our customer’s facilities, just so we take away that hurdle.”
Plans for commercial sale of electric trucks in America has pushed back into 2022 because of the pandemic, with the start of production for eCascadia in mid-2022 and late in 2022 for the eM2.
DTNA subsidiary Thomas Built plans to deliver 100 electric school buses in America this year, including 50 to power company Dominion Energy, which will use the batteries once they are depleted to store renewable energy from sources such as sun and wind. DTNA will supply 1050 electric buses to the utility by the end of this year.