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New HGV registrations in the UK dropped by 32.2% in 2020, according to new figures released on Wednesday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The decline saw demand reach low levels not seen since 2010. The SMMT says this can be attributed to the pandemic impacting business confidence to invest in new assets, as well as a bumper year in 2019, when new smart tachograph legislation led to a 12.6% increase in registrations.

Some 32,918 units were registered during the year, 57.7% of which were rigids, while 42.3% were articulated trucks, similar to market splits seen in 2017 and 2018. The industry recorded declines in both types of truck, with 7,352 fewer rigids (-27.9%) and 8,265 fewer artics (-37.2%) registered.

After a relatively optimistic Q3 (-1.6%), the SMMT says performance in Q4 was “disappointing” as new lockdown measures and Brexit uncertainty stalled fleet renewal, despite a pre-Christmas boost in vehicle use.

Ultimately, it was the significant fall in demand in Q2 (-73.4%) that dragged down the entire year’s performance, believes the SMMT. However, the organisation also states that progress with vaccinations and clarity over Brexit provide reasons for optimism in fleet renewal during 2021.

Commenting on the figures, 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.


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