The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) has released figures showing that new HGV registrations dropped by 32.2 per cent in 2020, representing the weakest demand since 2010.
SMMT attributed the decline in part to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and reluctance due to the resulting damage in business confidence to invest in new assets. However, the organisation also cited the upsurge in registrations in 2019, when new smart tachograph laws drove a 12.6 per cent increase, as a factor in the subsequent fall.
32,918 new trucks over 6 tonnes were registered last year, compared to 48,535 in 2019. Decline was witnessed in both rigid registrations, down 27.9 per cent, and artics, down 37.2 per cent, with 7,352 and 8,265 fewer registrations respectively.
The third quarter of 2020 had seen a “relatively optimistic” performance, down only 1.6 per cent on the previous year, though SMMT said that the fourth quarter had been “disappointing” with a 10.9 per cent fall against 2019. But the Society added that a gradual return to pre-pandemic vehicle utilisation levels and the rollout of the vaccination programme, as well as clarity around Brexit, offered hope for improvement in 2021.
“From September, truck utilisation began to exceed pre-pandemic levels – but registrations continued to fall,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, adding that operators had been “sweating their existing assets” as a result of lockdown uncertainty and an “underlying structural decline” given many fleet renewals would have taken place the previous year.
He continued: “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.”