Reports: Preliminary trailer orders strong for May

Updated Jun 14, 2018

FTR reports preliminary May U.S. trailer orders at 21,200, continuing the traditional seasonal drop in orders, albeit at still strong levels. ACT Research’s preliminary estimate for May net trailer orders is 23,300 units.

According to FTR, trailer orders have now totaled 335,000 units for the past 12 months. If OEM’s could build all the orders being placed, 2018 would easily be a record year; however, supplier constraints on key components and fabrications are holding back production. Even so, production is robust and still expected to set a record.

“At 21,000-plus, this is still an impressive order total for May. In 2015, May was the weakest order month and this May’s number is 30 percent higher than that. There is a chance that May could be the lowest month this year if fleets start ordering for 2019 early. Some OEMs are booked solid for 2018 and are soliciting orders for next year,” says Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles.

“The capacity crunch continues and there are reports of trailer shortages by shippers. The supply chain is getting plugged up and some full trailers are sitting at warehouses for days, waiting to be unloaded. These trailers are in effect pulled out of service in these regions causing temporary availability issues. Shipments are being delayed in many markets and more trailers are needed to keep the freight moving,” Ake says.

ACT Research reports that fleet investment is continuing at a “torrid” pace.

“Net trailer orders were up year-over-year for the 18th straight month in May. While normal seasonal patterns call for a month-over-month decline in the high teens, May net order volume was just 2 percent below April,” says Frank Maly, ACT’s director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research. “The major factors that have been driving the market, solid freight rates and tight capacity, with the added aid of beneficial tax changes, continue to provide the fuel for this ongoing order flow.”

Year-to-date, more than 151,000 net orders have been booked, up more than 26 percent versus last year.

“At current build rates, it appears that dry van and reefer backlogs, on average, have crossed into early 2019. Their influence pushes the industry average backlog-to-build well into December. Most vocational trailer categories appear to have backlogs that stretch into early fall,” Maly says.

ACT’s final May volume will be available later this month. ACT’s methodology allows it to generate a preliminary estimate of the market that should be within +/- 3 percent of the final order tally.

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