HGV registrations suffer big fall in 2020

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Registrations of HGVs in the UK fell by almost a third in 2020 to the lowest levels for a decade, down largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are hopes for a recovery in 2021.

HGV registrations fell by 32.2% in 2020, with 32,918 units registered, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). This was the lowest full-year figure for a decade, and the blame was largely attributed to the pandemic, which adversely hit business confidence to invest in new trucks, although the figures were perhaps made to look worse because the sector had fared so well in 2019.

In 2019, the HGV market registered a 12.6% increase year-on-year, the first yearly increase in two years. Part of the uptick had been down to the introduction of smart tachographs in June and ongoing fears of what form of Brexit the UK was going to have.

Of the 32,918 units were registered during the year, 57.7% were rigids, while 42.3% were articulated trucks, similar to market splits seen in 2017 and 2018. The industry recorded declines in both types of truck, with 7,352 fewer rigids (down 27.9%) and 8,265 fewer artics (down 37.2%) registered.

All seven of the major truck manufacturers experienced declines in registrations of at least 20% in 2020. Scania experienced the biggest fall in registrations, down 48.2% to 4,811 units. Mercedes-Benz also saw a sharp decline in registrations – down 39.2% year-on-year – as did Volvo, which saw registrations fall 32.1% and Renault (25.2%). Iveco and MAN fared slightly better – registrations down 21% and 23/3% respectively – although both had new trucks on the market.

Meanwhile DAF continued its dominance of the market, being the leading sell for the 26th year in a row. While its sales were down 28.9% year-on-year, they still sold more than double the number of trucks of their nearest rival and was the only manufacturer to break the 10,000 units barrier. Their market share did increase to a record 31.6% share of above 16-tonnes GVW market.  

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “From September, truck utilisation began to exceed pre-pandemic levels – but registrations continued to fall. Operators have been sweating their existing assets given the ongoing uncertainty from lockdown, and an underlying structural decline in the market given many would have renewed their fleet in 2019. Following such a tumultuous year, where the industry has acquitted itself well under the circumstances, it is vital that operators can have confidence restored so they can invest in the latest low-emission vehicles, helping the country to deliver on its green goals while ensuring the economy, and society, continues to move.”

To read more about how registrations of HGVs, vans and buses and coaches fared in 2020, click here to read the feature in the latest issue of Commercial Vehicle Engineer.

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Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now the editor of our three commercial vehicle titles: The Van Expert, The Truck Expert and Commercial Vehicle Engineer.

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