Production at Great Dane’s nine U.S. manufacturing plants is sold out for the rest of the year as trailer orders run counter to slumping demand for new tractors.
“We’re seeing steadiness in customer orders year-over-year,” Rob Ulsh, Great Dane vice president of dealer and international sales, told FreightWaves following the company’s press conference October 27 at the North American Commercial Vehicles Show (NACV).
Ulsh’s view of 2020 dovetails with FTR Transportation Intelligence, which predicts industry orders of 275,000 trailers next year based on stronger-than-expected September orders.
“It’s starting to shape up well,” Ulsh said. “But who knows what headwinds we might face in an election year.”
Falling spot rates for loads cooled the overheated market that led to record orders in 2018, Ulsh said.
Trailer orders last took a significant breather in 2008. “The trajectory has been up almost every single year,” Ulsh said.
Multiple factors help explain the winning streak. A shift in freight movement and distribution to focus on faster last-mile delivery has upstream impacts. Trips are shorter but more frequent. Drop-and-hook operations require extra trailers to work.
Great Dane is rolling out its new smart trailer telematics technology called FleetPulse at the NACV following three years of testing.
“We believe it is the bleeding edge,” said Mike Molitor, Great Dane director of business development.
The system’s built-in sensors collect precise measurements from the trailer’s components. It watches over key indicators like tire inflation systems, open doors, cargo weight, burned-out lights, anti-lock braking fault codes and actual mileage.
Data is collected and reported via a 4G platform. Fleets learn about potential issues and get reports on what maintenance needs to occur and when.
The integrated system helps fleets solve problems faster and increases uptime by matching trailer use and health data with Great Dane’s parts list.
“The transformational shifts that will occur in our industry, such as autonomy, electrification and smart distribution centers, will require the trailer to be designed and wired differently than it is today,” Molitor said.
The roughly $1,500 cost of FleetPulse is included in the trailer’s price. After three years, Great Dane collects a monthly subscription fee.