Speaking at Forbes House, the home of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Stuart Hunt, the managing director of DAF trucks, reviewed the growth in the UK truck market through 2005.
Demand for commercial vehicles over 6 tonnes has seen a growth of three per cent over last year, to a figure of about 53,000. Hunt said: “Our industry is in a good state and whilst we have entered a period of some uncertainty, we start from a very high level.”
When speaking in particular about the growth in the lighter truck market (those of 3.5 tonnes and over), Hunt said: “This year we will see the UK market reach 59,000 units. That will make it the highest for over 15 years.” This compares well with figures from last year which showed around 51,000 units. He said that statistically, the fastest growth has been with the lightest trucks, those weighing between 3.5 to 6 tonnes, though he also pointed out that “in reality the overwhelming majority of that growth has been in ‘Transit-type’ minibus chassis – so not really what you’d categorise as a truck at all.”
He went on to say: “The true truck market has been remarkably stable for the last ten years and I still see that continuing into next year despite some short term hesitancy.” Over the past year, the demand for 7.5 tonne trucks remains steady, with no signs at all of a migration to 10, 12 or 14 tonnes. At 18 tonnes, Hunt described the picture as “win some/lose some”, there being a slight growth on last year. Hunt commented that the “bread and butter” of local haulage is increasingly becoming the 26 tonne 6×2, which has shown another year of strong growth to the highest annual level on record. He put this down to the industry striving for efficiency, the right margins and the better logistics planning which drives higher load utilisation.
Hunt felt that in 2006 the same drive for efficiency must continue. “Although interest rates remain controlled and unemployment low, consumers still seem to lack the confidence to go out and spend.”
The big issue for 2006, as Hunt saw it, was whether operators would leave it too late to order Euro 3s. He said: “All I can do is to encourage every operator, big or small, to start planning now for the Euro 3 run out and Euro 4 run in.” Hunt concluded by outlining that what he sought most for 2006, was consistency. In terms of demand, he suspected that there would be a lull next year after the introduction of Euro 4. He said: “If we learn from history in the truck business, it is probably evolution rather than revolution that has won the day.”