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March trailer orders lowest in nearly three years

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David Sickels is the Associate Editor of Tire Review and Fleet Equipment magazines. He has a history of working in the media, marketing and automotive industries in both print and online.

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Trailer orders in March were down, according to both ACT Research and FTR.

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ACT Research Co.’s preliminary estimate for March 2019 net trailer orders is 15,600 units. Net orders dropped 35% from February and were approximately 48% below a year ago.

“Although current backlogs consume the majority of available build slots this year, particularly in the dry van and reefer segments, we continue to hear that OEMs are reluctant to fully open the 2020 orderboards,” said Frank Maly, ACT’s director of CV transportation analysis and research. “Their concerns center around materials and component pricing, which would obviously have measurable impact on future pricing. While some fleets appear to be willing to extend commitments, others might be waiting, monitoring current market conditions.”

Maly also noted that OEMs are pushing to deliver trailers as quickly as possible. “Preliminary information indicates production crossed the 30,000 unit mark last month for only the second time in industry history,” he said.

FTR’s number had preliminary trailer orders for March 2019 at 13,500 units, the smallest monthly total since September 2016 and the lowest March since 2008. Trailers orders for the past 12 months now total 371,000 units, FTR says.

Dry van orders were particularly low, FTR reports, with few build slots available left in 2019. Vocational trailer orders also continue to fall. The low level of trailer order activity in March should result in backlogs finally beginning to move down from record levels, FTR says.

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“This low order number is not surprising,” said Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles. “Backlogs had fallen little so far in 2019, and are at unreasonable levels. Fleets still need more trailers, based on the robust production, so demand has not changed in the short run. The weak orders are totally the result of the lack of available production openings. However, cancellations will continue to be a factor due to a large, fluid, backlog.”

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