The association’s sales report for October indicates the growth trend seen throughout 2021 showing little sign of abating, with a strong increase in new bookings across nearly all sectors of the market.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Counterbalance sector. Prior to the pandemic, counterbalance bookings were in decline, falling more than 5% in 2019, with the weakness most pronounced in Class 4/5. The pandemic exacerbated the trend, with Classes 1 and 4/5 subsiding by 21% and 34% respectively last year, with the decline most prominent in the first half of the year.
However, bookings have staged a strong recovery throughout 2021 as pandemic restrictions have eased and industrial production levels bounce back from lockdown. All classes of counterbalance trucks were up well above 100% in the second quarter of this year, while bookings for Class 1 continued to grow in Q3 but pulled back for Class 4/5 from the levels seen in the previous three months.
In total, counterbalance orders are predicted to rise 33% year on year this year. In 2022 strong demand is expected to continue, with bookings set to exceed 2019 levels, with a further rise of 17%.
September and October were especially strong months of the year for electric counterbalance trucks, demonstrating the continuing strength and trajectory of the market.
While lead acid remains the most common choice of battery power, the UKMHA figures show Lithium-ion has grown to be almost 14% of the electric counterbalance market.
The advance of Li-ion is even more marked within other groups. More than 26% of electric rider warehouse trucks ordered so far this year are Li-ion powered. In the electric pedestrian warehouse category, the figures were even higher with 36% of trucks ordered specified with Li-ion batteries.
For internal combustion engine (ICE) powered trucks, diesel continues to be the fuel of choice, edging LPG/Petrol, at a share of 55:45. However, at 35%, the pandemic decline was more pronounced in diesel than for any other power source, and the recovery (16%) has been markedly slower.
In line with historic data, market share was dominated by the wholesale distribution sector (32%), with a mix of miscellaneous industries grabbing 28% and the manufacturing industries 18%. Transport and warehousing gained 10% market share and retail distribution 9%.
Due to ongoing disruption to supply chains, a noticeable gap between orders and deliveries has widened through the year, – a situation far from unique to the lift truck industry.
Production schedules continue to be disrupted by a shortage of critical components, while the situation is compounded by labour shortages, escalating fuel and energy costs, and rising raw material costs.
Providing a commentary on the data, David Goss, Technical Director, UKMHA said: “The Sales Report provides an interesting snapshot as to the current state of the market and reinforces the thoughts of stakeholders expressed during IMHX Connect.
“It has been a strong year so far and the data for October gives further evidence of a robust autumn, leading into a solid fourth quarter.
“The re-emergence of the counterbalance sector after a tough time will be welcomed by manufacturers although it is disappointing to see that the gap between orders and deliveries continues to grow due to the ongoing supply chain disruption. Hopefully, this will be short lived although predictions are that it will continue into 2022.
“The long-heralded switch from diesel to electric hasn’t previously been evident in the data. It will be interesting to see whether the comparative weakness of the diesel truck market is due to short term issues, such as the introduction of stage V emissions technology, or the start of a long-term trend.
“UKMHA Sales Reports are the first to collate the figures for lead acid and li-ion power. It is clear that Li-ion is now making meaningful inroads into the market, and this is another reason why the macroeconomic data is such a useful tool for manufacturers plotting future sales strategies. The data is exclusive to the UKMHA and is another major benefit to membership of the association.”