ACT Research suggests moderating 2024 trailer activity

ACT Research suggests moderating 2024 trailer activity

Based on 2023-ending data, ACT research says 2024 "more about hoping and coping than full steam ahead" for trailer market

Data from ACT Research shows that trailer orders did not end 2023 with a strong showing, and the start of 2024 might follow suit. December net orders were nearly 58% lower year-to-year, and total order cancellations nearly doubled from 0.9% in November, to 1.7% in December, ACT reported. “With freight markets continuing their bounce along the bottom, carrier profits at a low ebb, and pent-up demand exhausted, the 2024 game plan is more about hoping and coping than full steam ahead for the trailer market,” ACT Research stated about this month’s State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report.

“With 35% of the year’s orders historically booked in Q4, the quarter’s seasonal factors run roughshod on the nominal data. Seasonally adjusted, December’s orders fall to 17,200 units, a 206k SAAR,” said Jennifer McNealy, director of commercial vehicle market research and publications at ACT Research. “Dry van orders contracted 87% y/y, with reefers down 56%, and flats 75% lower compared to December 2022.”

Delving into the cancelation rate, McNealy added, “Total cancellations increased to 1.7% of the backlog from November’s 0.9%, elevated for most segments and much higher for some. Digging down, several markets were again above 1.0%, including dry vans at 1.3%, flats at 3.5%, medium lowbeds at 1.5%, and dumps at 1.3%. Both tank categories reported a spike in cancellations, both around 7% of the backlog. Recent oil price weakness may bear some culpability.”

McNealy concluded, “December’s backlog-to-build ratio was squeezed by a stronger build rate offset by only a slight uptick in backlog. This combination of events resulted in a lower 2023-ending backlog-to-build ratio, at 5.3 months now versus the 5.8 months in November.”

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