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Trailer orders fall in 2021 as manufacturers battle omicron, parts shortages

Lack of visibility into second half of year places high-demand orders on hold

Trailer manufacturers battling worker outages because of omicron infections and ongoing parts shortages finished 2021 on a down note with little optimism for a meaningful recovery in the near-term.

Preliminary net orders in December were soft at 26,600 units, continuing a months-long trend of manufacturers accepting only orders they are confident of being able to produce. Bookings were down 17% from November and off 40% year over year, according to ACT Research. 

For the full year, manufacturers booked about 248,000 orders, down 17% from 2020. FTR Transportation Intelligence put 2021 orders at 249,000.

“Even with the lower December order volume, preliminary results point to month-over-month growth in industry backlog as the year closed, and it appears that 2022 production slots are now committed through August, at current build rates,” said Frank Maly, ACT director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research.

“We are building and managing through what our supply base can provide us and balancing that with our labor availability to best build equipment for our customers in as timely a fashion as possible in this environment.”

Chris Hammond, executive vice president of sales, Great Dane

Savannah, Georgia-based Great Dane said it has solid commitments for the first half of the year but is reluctant to accept orders for the second half until it is able to set prices amid volatile commodity prices.

‘Managing through what our supply base can provide’

“We are building and managing through what our supply base can provide us and balancing that with our labor availability to best build equipment for our customers in as timely a fashion as possible in this environment,” Chris Hammond, executive vice president of sales, told FreightWaves.

The trailer market resembles the selective order acceptance practices by Class 8 truck manufacturers, said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles.  

Watch now: Trailer supply chain issues worsening

“Orders have now averaged 26,000 units for the past four months, only a few thousand more than monthly production,” Ake said. “That means backlogs have only gone up 6% despite tremendous demand. You won’t see the order numbers consistently rise until there are ample parts to support significantly higher production.”

Stoughton Trailers, which last week announced a new plant to build intermodal chassis in Waco, Texas, said meeting production targets there will be “a strain” but demand for the product is worth the effort.

As to the impact of the latest COVID outbreak, Stoughton Vice President of Sales David Giesen told FreightWaves the higher infection rate is balanced by workers being off the job for less time. COVID is not the Wisconsin-based company’s biggest issue.

“All of the component and material supply chains remain strained,” Giesen said. “This seems to be the biggest limiting factor in producing more equipment at this point.”

Stoughton is fully committed or sold out of build slots for the year.

Anti-dumping penalties help Stoughton Trailers invest $25M in chassis production

November trailer orders rebound but supply chain issues are likely worsening

Trailer builders tap the brakes as abnormal order season arrives

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is a Detroit-based award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and most recently as Detroit Bureau Chief for He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.