U.S. trailer order volume slid sequentially for the second month in a row, but it’s all relative when one considers that more than 45,000 net orders were posted in November, according to ACT Research. Final trailer orders for November, as reported by FTR, also came in at around 45,000 units.
This month’s issue of ACT Research’s State of the Industry: U.S. Trailer Report explains that November was the fifth highest net order month in industry history, following September’s all-time record and October’s second-best in history.
“Seasonals call for a small sequential net order gain to close the year, but several factors make that a challenge,” says Frank Maly, ACT Research director, commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research. “With the last three months all ranking in the top five all-time, how likely are fleets to continue to increase commitments that currently stretch into fall 2019? Several factors, including softening freight rates, some interest-rate driven uncertainty and the continuing potential of tariff wars, cloud the economic horizon.”
Maly adds, “It is important to remember that year-to-date volume already ranks 2018 as the highest net order year in history, with one month remaining. The order board is just above twice the level of this point last year, and eight of 10 trailer categories are in the black year over year, with dry vans, reefers, heavy lowbeds and liquid tanks all posting triple-digit percentage improvement.”
According to FTR, November 2018 trailer orders were 17 percent below the impressive October activity; but with a 5 percent year-over-year increase, it was the fifth highest order month ever and the best November in history. Trailer orders for the past 12 months now total 427,000 units.
Trailer orders were elevated for the third month in a row as dry van fleets placed large requirements orders for the second half of 2019. Orders for other trailer segments retreated back to more normal totals after being near record levels the previous two months.
“There are still shortages of trailers in some markets as fleets continue to struggle to keep up with growing freight demand,” says Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles.
“Fleets are expecting they will need significantly more trailers throughout 2019. At some point, supply has to catch up with demand and that could begin to happen around mid-year. Expect trailer orders to fall for the next few months because most fleets already have their orders in for next year,” Ake says.