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Perfuming pigs: Fleets refurbishing older trailers while waiting for new

Stable trailer orders are not necessarily a good thing with burbling demand

Older trailers are being refurbished and returned to regular road use as fleets clamor( for new equipment.

With the continuing supply chain snarl causing manufacturers to accept only limited orders for new trailers, fleets are cleaning up older parked equipment used for storage to meet their immediate needs.

“I have heard from multiple dealers that their customers are investing large amounts to return trailers to active service from storage,” Sean Kenney, chief sales officer for Hyundai Translead, told FreightWaves.

It might be a move of last resort for fleets trying to keep up with easing but still robust demand for trailers to haul freight.

For six months, orders have tracked in a narrow range, with manufacturers accepting only orders they are confident they can build with supply chain visibility clouded by intermittent  COVID outbreaks, and shortages of various parts and components led by semiconductors.

Consistency counts

Bookings are averaging 25,700 trailers per month, outpacing production by about 3,000 units a month, allowing controlled growth in manufacturer backlogs, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence. Many fleets are placing multiyear orders to secure build slots, but the industry reports orders only for the forward 12 months. 

Watch now: Old is new again when it comes to trailers

Orders have exceeded production by about 3,000 units a month during this time, allowing backlogs to increase modestly. 

“If the supply chain were to improve enough to open further capacity, it would result in increased orders by both the direct and indirect channels of the business immediately,” Kenney said.

ACT Research pegged preliminary orders as steady at 26,500 units in February, about flat with January and up 3.9% year over year, and a function of careful order management, according to Frank Maly, ACT director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis.

“Supply chain and staffing headwinds continue to challenge OEMs in their efforts to increase output to meet extremely strong fleet equipment demands,” Maly said. “Initial projections indicate that the supply chain has allowed OEMs to build at a hard-fought consistent rate over the last three to four months.”

But insufficient to meet demand. FTR recorded preliminary orders of 24,600 in February, down 5% month over month and 4% compared with February 2021.

“There is tremendous demand for new trailers and the supply chain crisis has created a severe shortage, said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “Some previously retired trailers that were being used for storage or drayage are now being refurbished and returned to active duty.”

With 242,000 trailers being ordered on a rolling 12-month basis, the additional demand is being suppressed for now.

“OEMs will increase production as soon as they can get more parts, components and workers,” Ake said. “When this finally breaks loose, order volumes will jump substantially.”

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.