HGV registrations up 12.6% in 2019, while bus market falls again

The new heavy goods vehicle (HGV) market in the UK rose by 12.6% year-on-year in 2019, breaking a trend of two years of decline, according to new figures. In all, 48,535 units were registered in 2019, compared to 43,099 in 2018, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The increase was driven by increased registrations in the first half of the year, ahead of the mandatory fitment of Smart Tachographs.

Operators were also influenced by Brexit - or two missed deadlines for exiting the EU. In the final quarter of 2019, the market declined by 2.2%, with 12,514 HGVs registered, compared to 12,795 in 2018. Demand for tractor units fell slightly, while there were more marked declines in demand for tippers and curtainsiders.

However, demand for box vans and refuse collection vehicles increased year-on-year. Rigid trucks proved popular for operations in 2019, with demand growing by 10.6%, driven by a double-digit percentage increase in the >6-16T segment and an 8.4% rise in demand for trucks >16T. Elsewhere, the market for artics also rose, up 12.6%, with 3-axle models faring particularly well, enjoying a 14.5% boost.

In 2019, tractors remained by far the most popular segment, taking 44.6% of the market, with demand growing 12.9%. Box vans and tippers also experienced growth, up 27.2% and 9.4% respectively. Meanwhile, curtainsiders experienced a small decline of 4.4% compared with the previous year.

Of the major manufacturers, Scania and DAF had particularly good years. Sales of Scanias increased by 35% over the year, buoyed by attractive offers to operators. Meanwhile DAF secured more than 30% of the total HGV market, taking 30.5%, beating the marque's previous record of 30.1% in 2016, and up from 27.2% in 2018.

MAN and Renault also experienced double-digit growth year-on-year, while Volvo sales were up by a modest 2.6%. the only major manufacturers to experience a decline in sales were IVECO - down 3.3% - and Mercedes-Benz, down 14.3%. Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said that a strong year for truck registrations is welcome news for the industry. "While fluctuating fleet buying cycles and regulatory changes had a role to play, heavy goods manufacturer investment into the latest low emission technology is making these vehicles increasingly attractive to fleet operators. New HGVs will play a vital role in improving air quality so our aim should be to get more of these high-tech, low emission vehicles onto our roads - and for that we need the right conditions to give operators confidence to continue to invest in their fleets."

Bus registrations fall Meanwhile, the UK new bus and coach market fell by 18.8% to 5,874 units in 2019, the third consecutive year that registrations have fallen, again according to SMMT figures. But the year finished on a positive note with 18.5% growth in Q4 bringing an end to 11 straight quarters of decline.

Growth in the fourth quarter was driven by minibus registrations, which were up 49% to 1,311 units, while the market for single-deck and double-deck buses was down 13% and 27.8% respectively. Across the year, demand across all body styles registered double digit declines, with minibuses falling the most with a 22.7% drop in registrations. Single-deck and double-deck registrations were down 10.7% and 19.5% respectively, which was blamed on a combination of weak business confidence, declining passenger numbers and confusion over clean air zones.

Nigel Base, SMMT commercial vehicle Manager, said, "A third straight year of decline for the bus and coach sector is worrying.

While the market is cyclical, there's no doubt that operators face many challenges in the current volatile climate.

While the government's announcement of a National Bus Strategy is welcome, now we need to see the implementation of a plan that will encourage passengers on to local buses, stimulate fleet renewal and get more of the latest, lowest emission buses and coaches on to local roads."

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