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Trailer orders: 2018 closes as best-ever year for sales; orders dip in December

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According to preliminary numbers from both FTR and ACT Research, 2018 became the all-time best-selling year for trailer orders. Orders did dip in December after several successful months, both companies found.

FTR reports preliminary trailer orders for December at 28,000 units, a 38% drop from November and 39% below a year ago. Trailer order activity moderated in December after experiencing tremendous levels over the previous three months. Total trailers orders of 127,000 units in Q4 2018 were the second highest quarter ever with 2018 totaling 409,800 trailer orders, by far a record year.

“This drop was expected since the first half of the year is already booked for dry vans and refrigerated vans,” said Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles. “Most of the big fleets already have their requirements orders in for 2019. Now the medium and small fleets are searching for the remaining build slots, based on their expected needs in the second half of the year. Flatbed, tanker and dump fleets continue to order at respectable rates, indicating the economy is generating freight demand across various sectors and industries.”

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ACT’s preliminary estimate for December 2018 net trailer orders is 27,800 units.

“Considering the long-running order strength, December’s pause was not entirely surprising, with net orders down 39% from November, as well as from December 2017. Just as dry vans contributed to the long-term order upswing throughout the year, they also contributed significantly to the year-ending softness,” said Frank Maly, ACT’s Director of CV transportation analysis and research. “While some fleets likely stepped back to assess their 2019 investment plans, our discussions also indicate that some of the slide occurred as OEMs resisted booking additional orders into already-extended backlogs that might have pushed their commitments into 2020.”

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“Full-year results indicated just how robust current fleet investment plans are, as the industry set an all-time record for annual net orders last year,” Maly added. “More than 420,000 orders were booked in 2018, up 35% from 2017. Most trailer categories posted year-over-year gains, with reefers posting an industry-leading gain of almost 90% versus 2017.”

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