Trailer orders victim of weak new order placement, high cancellations

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U.S. trailer orders totaled 250 units in April, an all-time monthly low for the industry, according to preliminary data from ACT Research. Volume was down 97 percent from March and 98 percent below April of last year.

That all-time low volume resulted from a combination of weak new order placement and disappointingly high cancellations, according to ACT.

“The impact of COVID-19 pressure on commercial vehicle business conditions is obvious in these preliminary April results,” says Frank Maly, ACT director, commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research.

“Weak new order placement was the result of fleets swiftly moving to the sidelines as freight volume and lower freight rates resulted in disappointing financial results. While some fleets continued to benefit from the movement of essential goods and materials, that support was beginning to wane as the month closed,” Maly says.

Those fleets, he says, began to join the industrial, consumer goods and retail-oriented carriers, where lockdowns depressed freight volumes. ACT’s preliminary results indicate less than 6,000 new trailer orders were placed in April.

“However, cancellations almost completely offset those new orders, as fleets backed away from prior commitments in a rapid reaction to the unprecedented business conditions generated by the economic shutdown,” Maly says.

“Indications are that both the dry van and reefer segments posted more cancellations than new orders in April,” he says. “Don’t expect any significant rebound in order placement until improvement in business conditions and an unwinding of the economic shutdown begins to improve freight volumes.”

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