New HGV registrations plummeted by more than 32% last year, according to SMMT figures.

The decline, which led to the weakest demand since 2010, was attributed not only to the coronavirus pandemic but also a bumper 2019, when new smart tachograph legislation prompted a 12.6% increase in registrations.

The figures showed that 32,918 units were registered in 2020, of which 57.7% were rigids and 42.3% were artics.

There were declines in both types of truck, with 7,352 fewer rigids and 8,265 fewer artics registered.

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The SMMT described Q3 as a relatively optimistic performance with only a 1.6% fall in registrations, but renewed lockdown measures and Brexit uncertainty in Q4 off the back of a 73.4% fall in demand during Q2 dragged down the entire year’s performance.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “From September, truck utilisation began to exceed pre-pandemic levels – but registrations continued to fall.

“Operators have been sweating their existing assets given the ongoing uncertainty from lockdown and an underlying structural decline in the market given many would have renewed their fleet in 2019.

“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.”