Tough times continue for UK HGV market

The tough trading conditions for the UK HGV market continued in the third quarter of 2020, with 8,419 units registered, 1.6% down year-on-year, according to new figures.

Figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed that the decline was far smaller than that seen in the first half thanks to the easing of the UK’s first Covid-19-enforced lockdown, although it should be noted that registrations in Q3 of 2019 were particularly weak as many hauliers had pulled orders forward into Q2 ahead of new smart tachograph regulations kicking in.

Certain parts of the market found conditions tougher than others. For instance, there was increased demand for rigids as key sectors, including deliveries and construction, continued working throughout the pandemic.

Rigid trucks also fared well, with the >6-16T and >16T segments growing by 20.8% and 8.5% respectively, leading to a 12.6% overall increase for the segment. This is partly down to the increased growth in delivery companies thanks to growing online purchasing.

But articulated heavy truck demand fell by 17.1% in the quarter, although this decline was entirely attributable to an 18.6% drop in tractor registrations, which accounted for more than a third (38.8%) of the HGV market. With some hauliers having shut down during the first lockdown, tractor purchases have been put off for now.

Across the nations, registrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland increased modestly, but they continued to fall in England, which is by far the largest market.

While truck registrations have rebounded somewhat in the last quarter, across the year to date the overall market remains 39.6% down on the same period in 2019, equivalent to a loss of 14,258 units year-on-year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, warned that more volatility was ahead: “While Q3 saw some stability return to the HGV market, this may well be short-lived amid fresh autumn lockdowns across Wales and England.”

Hawes also renewed his call for the government to seal a zero-tariff deal with the EU ahead of the Brexit transition period ending on December 31 to give operators certainty and confidence. “As well as promoting fleet renewal to help drive a green recovery for the sector, and the UK.”

Dan Parton
Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now writes for The Van Expert and The Truck Expert.

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