According to the numbers from both FTR and ACT Research Co., trailer orders in March fell month-over-month but rose year-over-year, continuing a strong series of months for the trailer industry.
FTR has preliminary March trailer orders at 27,500, which reflect a typical seasonal decline from February, down 16% m/m. However, orders were historically strong with order activity at the highest level for the month of March since 2014 and up 34% from March 2017. The order volume should increase backlogs slightly as build rates are expected to increase in the coming months. Trailer orders have totaled 328,000 for the past twelve months.
“Even as orders decline, this remains a stout month of orders for the trailer industry,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “Some dry van OEMs are running out of 2018 production slots, so we should see orders take their typical swoon in the summer months. However, the amount of orders already placed has created a substantial backlog, which will create another stellar year for the trailer industry.
“The freight growth numbers we continue to see are very impressive across all trailer segments, especially flatbeds,” he continued. “Fleets are ordering trailers at a record pace to catch up to freight demand. The ELD conversion and driver shortage are just exacerbating an already tight capacity market. Fleets need more trailers now and orders placed for Q4 delivery means they expect the freight surge to continue for a while, a good sign for the economy.”
ACT’s preliminary estimate for March 2018 net trailer orders is 29,500 units.
“Strong freight demand and tight capacity have encouraged fleets to continue to invest in new equipment. Improving freight rates will positively impact their profitability, and the recent implementation of significant business tax cuts further contributes to their ability to expand and modernize operations,” said Frank Maly, ACT’s director of CV transportation analysis and research. “March was the 16th consecutive month with year-over-year order gains for the trailer industry, closing a quarter that was up 28% versus last year. Examination of these preliminary results indicates widespread strength. While dry and reefer trailers should both post year-over-year net order gains above 40%, solid results were evident across the vocational trailer categories as well.”
With springtime barely underway, orders placed in upcoming months, depending on the trailer category, could come with delivery dates deep into the fourth quarter, ACT said. “The industry’s average backlog pushes into November, although that horizon is strongly influenced by both dry vans and reefers,” Maly noted.