Trailer orders explode, approach all-time high

Updated Jan 18, 2018

The trailer order market continued its recent boom last month, as FTR reported Friday preliminary December orders at 47,000 units — the single highest month in its recorded history — and ACT Research followed Monday with a 45,200 unit estimation that tracks as the second highest for the company.

FTR states December’s total is 10 percent above November and up 38 percent year-over-year. The company states December orders, when finalized, are expected to exceed the previous high of 45,800 reached in October 2014. ACT’s numbers show last month falling just a tick below October 2014, with a 7 percent uptick over November and a 30 percent improvement year-over-year, says Frank Maly, ACT’s director of CV Transportation Analysis and Research.

FTR and ACT Research estimates for total trailer orders for 2017 clocked in at 308,000 units and 313,000 units, respectively. ACT Research states that total is a 38 percent improvement versus 2016 and ranks as the third highest order year in history, trailing only 2014 and 2015.

“December was just an awesome month for trailer orders. We have seen pressure build on equipment markets for several months, and this shows Q1 is going to be hectic as fleets scramble to keep up with freight demand,” says Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles.

FTR states fleets are ordering thousands of dry vans to deal with exceptionally tight trucking capacity pushed to the edge by the ELD mandate. Additionally, ACT states eight of the ten trailer categories were positive year-over-year, with bulk tanks, flatbeds, and dry vans posting the strongest gains.

Freight continues to grow without enough equipment to haul it. Carriers are resorting to much more drop-and-hook to compensate for the lack of drivers, and they need significantly more trailers to manage the demand, FTR says.

Across the board economic growth is also keeping trailer demand strong in the other segments. FTR states refrigerated freight remains robust and the flatbed market continues to surge with construction and manufacturing growth boosting demand. Higher crude prices are reviving tank trailer sales.

“Contributing last month were solid performances for both dry vans and reefers. The stay of GHG-2 regulations helped move fleets into the market last month, and continued demand for freight transport and solid freight rates contributed to their ongoing confidence. Lengthening OEM backlogs also helped encourage fleets onto the orderboard,” says Maly.


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