New heavy goods vehicle (HGV) registrations increased by 9.5% in the first three months of 2021, signalling signs of recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The increase saw some 10,064 units registered in the first quarter of the year, up on 2020, although the SMMT cautioned that this follows a weak first quarter in 2020 when lockdown measures introduced partway through March and fluctuations in the fleet renewal cycle subdued demand. It also noted that these figures are still 15.1% down on pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2019.

Articulated trucks saw the biggest increase in demand, with registrations up 25.3% to 4,528 vehicles, while rigids decreased -0.8% to 5,536 units. Tractors remain the biggest segment, making up 44.3% of the market, with 26.6% more units registered than Q1 2020.

Tipper registrations also increased, up 10.8%. However, registrations of most segments dropped, as the pandemic affected business operations, suppressing demand for most of the past year.

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Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “The rise in truck registrations is welcome news but it does not yet signify full recovery, especially as it’s in comparison with a quarter when the first lockdown was introduced.

“Likewise, the nature of the fleet buying cycle for the HGV market can mean that a large fleet order can have a significant impact on any quarterly figures.

“However, fleet renewal remains the quickest way to get more of the newest, cleanest vehicles on UK roads, particularly as we strive to meet our collective environmental goals.

“A plan for a charging and refuelling network suitable for HGVs is pivotal for the transition to these new technologies.”