ACT Research reported Thursday preliminary trailer orders for last month at 29,100 units. FTR's preliminary estimation was slightly higher at 30,000 units.
ACT says its total was up 94 percent from the same period last year but down 33 percent from December's impressive total. FTR's total was up 83 percent year over year and down 34 percent from December. FTR also notes the trailer market has totaled 313,000 units in the last year.
“The year-over-year gain, with OEMs booking almost twice the volume they reported last January, was in line with expectations, as the industry continues to see solid interest from fleets for equipment acquisition. The slower order pace versus December was also anticipated,” says Frank Maly, director, CV transportation analysis and research, ACT Research. “The order surge last September through December, which sets the stage for solid production volumes this year, is actually somewhat of a limiting factor for additional orders in the short-term."
On a segment basis, Maly says for dry vans and reefers, orderboards currently commit many OEMs into late 2021, and that means 2021 production slots are becoming a rare commodity. FTR adds a couple of OEMs are booked solid for dry vans for all of 2021 and have limited capacity to book additional orders. Orders for refrigerated vans have been robust for the last four months, so the pace here is moderating also. Orders for flatbeds have risen noticeably over the last two months and are expected to continue to improve in January.
“The good news about January orders is that flatbed orders continue to recover," says Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. "This will allow OEMs to raise build rates through the first half of the year. Dump and tanker orders are also expected to show gains. This means the manufacturing and the industrial sectors are showing strength, and this should translate to lower unemployment and GDP support later in the year.”
"There is a reticence for OEMs to open 2022 slots at this time, and actually, some uncertainty on the fleet side to extend CAPEX intentions that far out as well," adds Maly. “Increasing production rates continue to be a challenge for trailer OEMs, as headwinds from increasing staff and growing concerns regarding materials and components supplies are evident. Improvement in both those areas would generate additional production capacity as we progress through 2021.”
Finally, Ake adds, "Fleets are expecting 2021 to continue to be a great year for freight and have placed a hefty number of orders in the last five months. Replacement demand is solid because carriers are profitable. Expansion demand is growing due to the capacity constraints that emerged after the economic startup. Orders should continue to ease down due to the lack of available build slots. The challenge right now is for OEMs to fill near-term orders due to raw material and component shortages.”