Preliminary trailer orders for March continue to be negatively impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, falling 54 percent from February to 6,500 units for the month, according to FTR. Orders were down 55 percent from March 2019.
FTR reports March totals were particularly weak for dry vans with some large fleets canceling orders that were spread out over the remainder of the year. Flatbed orders were also “tepid,” as the manufacturing sector of the economy was partially shut down in March. Refrigerated van orders fell, but not to the same degree as other segments. Trailer orders for the past 12 months now total 177,000 units, FTR states.
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“The trailer market is mirroring the Class 8 side, as fleets are extremely cautious due to the anxiety about the virus. The orders placed in March are for units that are perceived to be absolutely necessary for relatively short-term needs,” says Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “Fleets will also delay replacing older trailers until the economic situation stabilizes. Orders did exceed last June’s 5,600 total when some large fleets canceled dry van orders as the freight market cooled.”
FTR expects some over-capacity in the short-term because of the enormous number of new trailers that entered the market in the last three years, with some of those trailers sitting idle during the economic downturn.
“They will go back into service gradually as things recover. However, this will limit new trailer demand for a while. This is a severe wait-and-see situation with a potentially long wait period. Expect orders to track around the 10,000-unit mark for a few months as a result,” Ake says.