Trailer orders make year-over-year leap

Lucas Deal

April 17, 2017

ACT Research and FTR both reported Monday that trailer orders last month were up 45 and 50 percent, respectively, over March 2016.

FTR estimates March’s trailer orders to 20,500 units, down 20 percent month-over-month but up 50 percent over 2016. FTR says the drop off from February for both dry and refrigerated vans is simply due to the start of a typical seasonal decline for trailer orders, and the strong year over year comparison reflecting a positive trailer order environment. The company adds that softening backlogs are also consistent with normal market conditions; production for March was robust.  Trailer orders have now totaled 246,000 units for the last twelve months, FTR says.

ACT’s numbers were similar, as the company estimated 21,500 units ordered in March. ACT says its methodology allows “us to generate a preliminary estimate of the market that should be within +/- 3 percent of the final order tally.”

The company says its final order tally will be released later this month.

“Commitments have been delayed this order season, as fleets carefully monitored economic conditions and watched the political winds to determine their confidence regarding capital expenditures. Their shift from caution to a more optimistic outlook is evident when you consider net order volumes in each of the last four months has surpassed the same month of the prior year,” says Frank Maly, ACT’s director CV Transportation Analysis and Research. “While the 20 percent decline in net orders from February was a bit more than anticipated, March net orders were up a very solid 45 percent versus last year. The majority of that strength came from dry vans, which were roughly double last year’s level.”

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Maly adds, “The order season normally starts strong in late summer/early fall and closes the first quarter at a more moderate pace. This order cycle has proceeded in almost the opposite pattern. In fact, the longer-term perspective shows the total net orders booked from last September through March is now almost equal to the 2015/2016 order cycle volume.”

Don Ake, FTR vice president of Commercial Vehicles, had similar remarks.

“The trailer market had a great production month. The OEMs finally started to increase build rates due to the strong orders of the past four months.  Builds jumped an impressive 9 percent on a per day level over February.  Production was basically equal to last March, which is a great sign moving into the seasonally strong second quarter,” he says.

“The additional good news is the trailer vocational segments are showing some signs of life.  Flatbed production was up considerably, as were dump trailers.  The tanker segments are also moving in the right direction.  These vocational segments continue to track closely with Class 8 trucks, which are also on the upswing.  Fleets are growing much more optimistic about the business environment and they are buying more trailers again after a slump the second half of last year.”

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