The UK’s market for new HGVs plummeted by more than a fifth in the first quarter of 2020 with 9,193 units registered, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Demand for new HGVs fell by 22.5%, down by 2,666 units, which SMMT attributed to fluctuations in the sector’s long fleet renewal cycle, together with Covid-19 lockdown measures introduced partway through March.

Registrations of rigid trucks fell by 12% to 5580 in the period, down from 6339 in the first quarter of 2019. SMMT said the fall was driven by a double-digit percentage decline in the 16 tonne and over truck segment, while registrations of trucks weighing between 6 tonnes and 16 tonnes fell by 5.8%, from 2298 to 2165.

Meanwhile, demand for articulated heavy trucks declined by more than a third, down by 34.5% with 3,613 vehicles newly registered compared to 5520 in the first quarter of 2019.

Whilst tractors continued to make up the majority of HGV registrations with more than 3,500 vehicles registered in the period, nearly all segments saw double-digit declines in the first quarter of the year.

Conversely refuse disposal and curtain sided vehicles experienced increased demand in the first quarter, up 24.4% and 1.2% respectively, which SMMT said was probably due to increased need for essential services such as rubbish collection and supermarket and warehouse deliveries as a result of the pandemic.

The only region to see an increase in demand during the quarter was Wales, where registrations of heavy goods vehicles were up by over a fifth, growing 20.8% to 354 units. Across the rest of the country, fewer HGVs joined the roads, with England and Northern Ireland experiencing 24.9% and 20.5% declines respectively.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “While fluctuating fleet buying cycles can have a pronounced effect on this market, heavy goods manufacturers have had to adjust business practices during the lockdown period just like any other business. As we prepare for a cross-industry restart, we need to restore operator confidence to boost fleet renewal, in order to get more of the latest high-tech, low emission vehicles onto our roads.”