According to FTR, final September net trailer orders came in at 11,800 units, down 16% month-over-month and -66% year-over-year. Dry van orders fell even further than overall trailer orders, -43% m/m and -80% y/y. In spite of falling trailer orders, build for September was up 10% per day over August. The lower than expected orders and stronger build rates resulted in the backlog dipping below 100,000 trailers for the first time since January 2014. Trailer orders have now totaled 226,000 units for the past 12 months.
“The lower order rate in September is consistent with a cooling market in 2017,” said Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles. “Fleets are uncertain and nervous about freight demand and declining profits. They are not going to place huge orders covering demand for the next 12 months, as they have the last two years. Lead times are much more reasonable, so fleets will evaluate their needs on a month-to-month basis for a while. This means order rates should come in line with production fairly soon.
“September production was surprisingly strong after two noticeably weaker months in July and August,” he continued. “Some OEMs boosted production after the vacation breaks, and there were also more pup trailers built for package carriers in anticipation of the holiday shipping season. Factory shipments were way up, cutting into bloated inventories. This is a positive sign for trucking in Q4.”