Truck trailer orders dropped for the third straight month in February. Orders for 23,800 trailers was a decline of 29 percent compared with the same month a year earlier; and orders dropped 9 percent from January’s totals, according to ACT Research.
This occurred as manufacturers attempted to build trailers that were ordered during 2018, the best year on record.
However, Kenny Vieth, president of ACT Research, said it’s unfair to compare this three-month order decline with the same time-frame a year ago.
“Trailer manufacturers experienced the best-ever order volumes during those three months in 2018,” Vieth told FreightWaves.
ACT is anticipating another record-setting year, projecting orders for 324,000 trailers in 2019, slightly up from 323,000 a year ago, Vieth said.
FTR Transportation Intelligence, another trucking industry consulting firm, estimates that manufacturers posted orders for 24,000 trailers last month, dipping 27 percent from a year ago, and down 9 percent from January.
“The trailer market continues to show surprising resilience despite the moderation in economic and freight growth,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR.
FTR is slightly more cautious in its trailer order forecast in 2019, lowering its projection to 312,000, down slightly from 317,000 orders in 2018.
Both transportation analysts blame a hefty backlog of trailers as the reason for the order slowdown.
“Orders that would typically be placed early in the year were booked in the second half of 2018 as truckers raced to get into the rapidly filling order queue,” Vieth said. “At February’s build rate, there were still over eight months of backlog waiting to be built.”
Given the lengthy backlog, most trailer manufacturers have not opened their 2020 order books, which limits the opportunity to order trailers,” he said.
Despite the recent downturn in trailer orders, the economy looks solid for the remainder of 2019, Ake said.
“Equipment markets are a good leading indicator of the general economy,” Ake told FreightWaves. “Right now, the truck and trailer markets continue to be strong.”