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Trailer orders ramp up in September, pushing existing bookings into 2022

Rolling supply shortages and worker recruitment slow full order potential

Trailer orders rose 130% in September over August but some manufacturers are still not taking orders for 2022. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Editor’s Note: Updates with comments from No. 2 manufacturer Hyundai Translead

Trailer manufacturers began to satiate pent-up fleet demand in September, but new bookings pushed the length of the backlog for delivery into 2022 amid uncertainties surrounding rolling supply shortages.

Preliminary reports from ACT Research show trailer manufacturers posted 28,500 net orders in September, a 130% gain from August but 45% behind September 2020, the third-highest orders in history.

“We’ve been awaiting the opening of the 2022 orderboard, and that finally occurred during September,” said Frank Maly, ACT director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research. “While demand remains very strong, that action was not universal as the market was a mix of OEMs accepting orders while some remain on the sidelines.”

Hyundai Translead, the San Diego-based No. 2 and Great Dane, the Savannah, Georgia-based No; 3 trailer makers based on 2020 production, are slowly turning on the order spigot.

“We have recently communicated available volumes available by product line for 2022 and have begun quoting,” Sean Kenney, Hyundai Translead chief sales officer, told FreightWaves. “We fully anticipate that 2022 will fill quickly to the levels we have been able to commit to for our customers and dealers.

Meanwhile, City of Industry, California-based Utility Trailer Manufacturing Corp., the No. 4 manufacturer, said it has not accepted any 2022 orders yet.

“As of today, we’re out to the second quarter,” UTM marketing manager Brett Olsen told FreightWaves. “We’re currently not taking orders, but we anticipate we will in the near future.”

Industry leader Wabash National Corp. (NYSE: WNC)  declined to comment on orders.

Early 2022 orders proceed slowly

“We have begun to open up the first part of 2022 but not the full year,” Chris Hammond, Great Dane executive vice president of sales, told FreightWaves. “I suspect we will have Q1 filled very soon.”

Component and materials pricing and availability, as well as staffing challenges, are hampering the timely matching of demand and production.

ACT reported 34,000 gross trailer orders across the industry, suggesting a high number of cancellations and retiming of some 2021 orders.

“There aren’t any cancellations, just rolling of orders that [we] will not complete this year,” Hammond said. “Some orders for this year rolled over into 2022 prior to starting to price early 2022 [trailers], so that does limit the number of new orders we can take.” 

Hyundai Translead’s Kenney said: “Retiming has been a major challenge for everyone involved impacting both manufacturers and customers alike.”

Rolling shortages

Great Dane is managing to keep all of its lines across nine plants running, but it does not have all the assemblers it would like. 

UTM’s Olsen said, “We are struggling getting to the levels required by the current demand in most of our plants.” 

Stepping up production is also impacted by rolling shortages of parts and components..

“A lot of items are a challenge,” Hammond said, mentioning foam suspensions as an example. “It seems everyone has components stuck in the supply chain somewhere. Every day the plants are working to get something to keep the lines running.”

“You name it, it’s difficult to get.”

Utility trailer manufacturing marketing manager Brett Olsen

Added UTM’s Olsen: “You name it, it’s difficult to get.”

And Hyundai Translead’s Kenney said: “Nearly everything supplied has challenges from raw materials to supplied components. While there are some items that have been consistently difficult, In the current environment every challenge solved seems to bring at least one more right behind it.”

Fleet demand for trailers to handle a robust freight market is expected to lead to elevated orders as orderboards fully open in coming months, Maly said.

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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.