With its over 60 years of professional expertise in the automotive and transportation industry, DuckerFrontier has made heavy duty truck and related products a core segment. The onset of Covid-19 provided no distraction from DuckerFrontier’s focus, first analyzing the impact of the pandemic on the automotive industry in its March 2020 report Covid-19 and Global Automotive Supply Chain Disruptions. The DuckerFrontier Automotive and Transportation team has continued to analyze the impact on the commercial truck market to assist suppliers, manufacturers and other industry participants understand current production forecasts, sales and market trend impacts to determine how to best operate.

Pandemic Impact to Commercial Truck Production

As history demonstrates, medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle production cycles average eight to ten years. The next expected production decline has begun, with a continuation into 2021; return to growth is anticipated for 2022 and thereafter.

As a result of Covid-19, the impact specifically on Class 8 commercial vehicle sales and production forecasts continues to be analyzed. A stronger recovery is expected in 2021 than originally projected; production is not anticipated to be as disrupted and commercial vehicle operators will continue to replace older models and/or expand fleet capacity to meet increased logistic demand. Further, continued maintenance schedules for vehicles in operation will demand suppliers providing service and aftermarket parts including wheel-end-systems to operate at pre-Covid levels. 

Leading Industry Trends Utilizing Advanced Technology

The commercial vehicle industry is observing five predominant trends utilizing advanced technologies to enhance logistics and comply with regulations, while aiming to optimize cost per mile traveled.

  • The trucking industry is facing an increased demand for goods delivery in a timely manner with a high pressure on costs and fuel-economy being a critical concern. Class 8 trucks cover about 63,000 miles per year with an average fuel economy of 5.3mpg representing average diesel costs of $36,000 per year. Lightweighting is a relevant concern to maximize efficiency and achieving emissions targets set by the federal government
  • Connectivity is the key to telematics and digitized solutions, as well as cost optimization of vehicle and fleet ownership needs. OEMs and maintenance solution providers tend to offer added connectivity options to ensure decreased down-time and sustainable dealer service revenue
  • Safety analytics, such as driver monitoring and ADAS technologies, are in high-growth positions as compared to other fleet telematics and technology adoption. Additionally, the driver shortage gap is projected to continue widening into the foreseeable future and measures to retain and recruit are more important now than ever
  • Digitized trucking is the key to enhanced fleet management through cloud-based solutions that offer freight management, invoicing and shared transportation solutions. The optimization of the value chain helps avoiding empty returns after a delivery and enhance revenues due to higher utilization rates
  • While the launch of Class 8 electric vehicles has occurred (e.g. Freightliner e-Cascadia), end user adoption is expected to be limited as a result of restricted driving ranges (250-500 miles) and infrastructure requirements; however the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and fifteen other state agencies have outlined initiatives to convert a significant portion of the commercial truck fleet to ‘zero emissions’ and may be a catalyst to see wider interest and faster adoption

Electrification Trends

There is growing interest for electrification coming from Class 8 brands, models such as Freightliner’s e-Cascadia, and upcoming programs, such as Navistar’s NEXT eMobility Solutions initiative and Volvo’s Lights projects. Additionally, newcomers are creating hype in the heavy-duty truck segment with Tesla teasing about its Semi electric truck and Nikola Motors coming up with fuel cell technology for faster charge and longer range.

In the meantime, regulations are indicating a strong inclination for adoption of electrified trucks. Following an initiative from California, 15 states and the District of Columbia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to accelerate the adoption of medium and heavy-duty truck electrification. The intention is to reach 30% penetration of electric vehicles in the new truck market by 2030, a goal of 100% by the year 2050.

The combination of the industry initiative and the MOU are increasing investor’s interests with major investments benefiting all market participants from light commercial vehicles to heavy-duty class 8 trucks:

  • Rivian raised USD $2.7B in 2019 ($700 million from Amazon, $500 million from Ford, $350 million from Cox Automotive for a total of $1.3B) and an additional $2.5B was raised in 2020 towards its R1T
  • Nikola Motor’s market capitalization reached over USD $20B days after the IPO
  • Tesla claimed over 2,000 orders received for its semi semi-truck, the Cybertruck, and announced the future production of the motors and batteries in U.S. factories
  • In addition to the Tesla Cybertruck, the Rivian R1T and the Nikola Badger, other companies are entering the light truck market such as Lordstown (a subsidiary of Workhorse), and Beringer

DuckerFrontier’s Automotive and Transportation team continues to follow and analyze the key trends and impacting the automotive and transportation industry, both during and post Covid-19 disruptions. Visit our Covid-19 Resource Hub for the latest insights and implications for global business, or contact us to connect with a team member.