Trailer manufacturers post 29% gain in first quarter

Trailer manufacturers started 2004 with a 29% gain, according to figures compiled by ACT Research LLC of Columbus, Indiana.

Manufacturers shipped 60,122 complete trailers during the first three months of 2004, compared with 47,466 during the first quarter of 2003. Van trailers represented 40,293 of the total, up 26% from year-earlier levels. All other trailer types fared even better, topping last year’s start by 36%.

Products not considered complete trailers (containers, container chassis, dollies, and converter gear) also posted gains in the first quarter. ACT Research counted 5,169 of these products in the first quarter, up 9% from the first three months of 2003.

“All the critical factors are in place for an extended period of strong trailer demand,” says Kenny Vieth with ACT Research. “The economy is growing, trucker profitability is rising, and the nation's trailer fleet is getting old. The premium that the new Hours of Service regulations place on driver time should also bolster trailer demand as additional freight is converted to trailer demand friendly drop-and-hook operations.” The growth could have been even greater had it not been for the rising cost of raw materials.

“There was a sticker-shock driven pullback in orders in March as the industry raised prices to cover rising commodity costs,” Vieth says. “Slower orders in March followed a strong six-month order run from September to February. Early indications from April suggest the order pullback is likely to be short lived as the need for trailers is outstripping pricing concerns.”

He adds that strong new order activity has boosted backlogs, which in-turn are pushing production rates higher.

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