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Trailer order backlogs stretch into 2019

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According to the preliminary numbers from both ACT Research Co. and FTR, trailer orders were up year-over-year but down month-over-month in April, continuing a strong year for the trailer industry. After several strong months, order backlogs are now stretching into the fourth quarter of this year, and in some cases, into 2019.

ACT’s preliminary estimate for April 2018 net trailer orders is 23,100 units.

“April was the seventeenth consecutive month of year-over-year gains for net orders, an indication of strong fleet confidence in current business conditions, as well as a positive outlook as we move through the rest of this year. Solid freight rates and tight capacity continue to support fleet investment plans,” said Frank Maly, ACT’s director of CV transportation analysis and research. “While net orders were down roughly 23% from March, a decline is expected as we exit the industry’s normal October through March order season. A review of the latest order season shows almost 224,000 orders were booked, up nearly 30% from a year ago.

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“While heavily influenced by dry vans and reefers, the industry’s average backlog now extends deep into the fourth quarter. Depending on the OE and the trailer category, a fleet placing an order now may well receive a 2019 delivery date,” Maly added.

FTR reported preliminary April trailer orders at 22,000 units, a m/m decline of 20% from March which simply reflects a typical seasonal adjustment. April 2018 trailer orders were still solid for the month, with a +10% comparison y/y and 21% higher than 2015, another strong year. Backlogs will now begin to decline as is typical this time of year. Trailer orders have totaled 330,000 for the past twelve months.

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“Most fleets have their orders placed for 2018 and some dry van OEMs are booked solid for the year,” said Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles. “Component shortages are increasing and may prevent all the orders in the backlog from being built this year. However, there is still capacity available for refrigerated van and vocational trailer orders, and the chugging economy should continue providing increased sales of all trailer types.

“This is still a decent April for trailer orders,” he added. “It is higher than 2015 and signals the market will stay red-hot for a while. Some orders are already rolling into 2019. Solid freight growth and high trailer capacity utilization rates mean more trailers are needed to help relieve this capacity crunch and compensate for driver shortages.”

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