Making America’s semitrucks

Semitruck makers have seen record demand for trucks in recent months, and now parts are starting to flow more freely, managing extremely tight supply constraints to fill orders.

“The demand for trucks, I would say, is unprecedented,” said David Carson, SVP of sales and marketing for Daimler Trucks North America. “We have seen an incredible demand going on during COVID and continuing into next year. This demand has actually exceeded our capacity and it is exceeding the capacity of the entire industry.”

JD Power analyst Chris Visser said between 95,000 and 284,000 new semitrucks are sold in the U.S. each year, and sales were on track to peak by the end of 2022. On average, a semi with a sleeper cabin will cost around $150,000. A fully loaded one can run upwards of $200,000.

American truck manufacturing is dominated by four companies: Daimler Trucks, Packer, Volvo, and Triton. Daimler is the largest: it has about 40% market share, mostly through its Freightliner brand.

Business is going through a period of tremendous change. Truck makers are spending billions to replace fuel-burning diesel engines with battery- and hydrogen-powered electric systems. There is also a race to make trucks that can remove the driver entirely, which could reduce costs and allow companies to operate trucks without brakes.

This change is being forced from outside the ranks of companies that have served this market for decades.

“You can credit Elon Musk for making trucking cool,” said Craig Fuller, founder and CEO of FreightWaves, a company that provides data and news about the trucking industry.

Legacy truck makers like Daimler have had to invest in electric semitruck technology, partly to meet tighter regulations and partly to compete with attention-grabbing outsiders like Musk.

But it is unclear whether there is a solid business case for some of these innovations.

Foul play has also plagued the industry recently. founder of Nikola Motors, the once-promoted hydrogen fuel truck maker, has been convicted of fraudAnd this Major self-driving truck startup TuSimple fired its CEO over unfair dealings with a Chinese firm.

Established truck makers, such as more than a century-old Daimler, are balancing keeping their specialized and often highly cost-sensitive customers happy in the present while investing for an uncertain future.

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