UK HGV registrations for 2021 have defied expectations with a 37,163 increase on 2020 levels, amounting to a 12.9% increase. With supply chain constraints continuing to stiffen the market, this still indicates that the market is not at levels of the pre-pandemic average, with a 16.9% falls in figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Industry Renews Calls for Transmission to Zero-Emission Vehicles to Maintain Fleet Operator Confidence
With the end-of-year figures in, the market held tight over 2021. Growth in key industry sectors such as construction saw demand outstrip supply, with truck registrations surging from a locked-down 2020 fall of -32.2%. However, the global semiconductor shortage, coupled with supply constraints affecting steel and aluminium and impacted availability, means that in 2021, there were 7,571 fewer HGV units registered compared with the pre-pandemic average.
Focusing specifically on the fourth quarter statistics for rigids, almost every sector saw a drop, with rigid vehicles between 6-16 tonnes seeing a 22.2% drop or 1,802 sales during the fourth quarter of 2021 against 2,316 units in the same quarter for 2020. Rigids above 16 tonnes saw a smaller drop of 9.8%, amounting to 3,111 units in 2021 against 3,450 in 2020. 3+-axle articulated trucks also saw a 10.3% drop, amounting to 3,936 units against 4,388 units in 2020, while 2-axle articulated trucks saw a 4.1% rise of 1,042 against 1,001. For rigids, this amounted to a 14.8% drop or 4,913 units in Q4 2021 against 5,766 in Q4 2020.
In total, rigids between 6-16 tonnes increased 4.6%, making for 7,671 units in 2021 against 7,332 units in 2020 and rigids above 16 tonnes recording a higher increase of 16.3% or 13,560 units against 11,600 units in 2020. 2-axle articulated and 3+-articulated trucks also recorded healthy rises. This amounted to 2,167 and 13,765 units respectively, making for year-on-year increases of 14.9 and 14.3% consecutively. This means 57.1% of registrations were for rigids and 42.9% were for articulated trucks.
Of body types, tractor units saw 15,679 (a rise of 16% on 2020), making up 42% of the market.
Maintaining and growing demand will be vital to fleet renewal – getting more of the latest, greenest trucks on the road – but operators will need long-term certainty to make investment decisions. New non-zero emission HGV sales will end in 2040 – just five years after the end of the sale date for non-zero emission new cars and vans. For HGVs, there is no single zero-emission technology appropriate for all HGV use cases, nor is there a plan to create the necessary public recharging or refuelling infrastructure specifically for HGVs and drivers to enable the transition. As a result, fossil fuel vehicles still accounted for 99.8% of HGVs in use in 2020.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, added that the UK is still very much dependent on HGVs, meaning that the market’s return is positive news as, “as getting more of the latest, high tech and low emission trucks onto the roads is critical to both air quality and climate change improvements. However, the sheer variety of functions HGVs perform, in logistics, construction and waste collection to name but three illustrates how a range of technologies may be necessary to decarbonise road transport. Manufacturers are investing billions in such technologies, including battery-electric, hydrogen and other alternative fuels but operators will need clarity, affordability and evidence on an infrastructure plan dedicated to their needs if this transition is to be delivered on time.”