Trailer Shipments Cool Off in November

HOW HOT has demand for truck trailers been in recent months? November was one of the most productive months in history, but industry output slipped 7% from October.

It is not very often that the industry can ship 23,488 complete trailers and have it considered a down month, but that is what happened in November, according to preliminary figures published by the U S Bureau of Census. Following the second-most productive month in trailer manufacturing history in October (25,178 trailers shipped), the industry saw output decrease for the first time in four months.

Despite the decline, shipments were up 49% compared with the 15,738 complete trailers shipped during November 1996. Dry-freight vans led the way with an 81% increase from year-earlier levels. But most types of trailers also were up sharply when compared with November 1996. For example:

Platforms surged 28% from a year earlier, with shipments of 1,824.

Tanks were up 11%. Chemical and acid tanks were particularly strong, posting an 86% increase.

Lowbeds edged up 6% as the industry shipped 939 trailers. Through the first 11 months of 1997, the industry was on a pace to have its second-best year ever. The total of the 11 months of Bureau of Census reports indicates that the industry shipped 244,723 complete trailers, with December shipments not yet counted. Barring an unprecedented output in the final month of the year, the industry will fall slightly short of its record 279,144 trailers shipped during 1995. Shipments for the first 11 months were up 32% from the corresponding period of 1996.

Truck Sales Up Truck dealers had a productive month in November, posting a 5% increase compared with the sales from a year earlier. A total of 540,593 trucks were sold at retail during the month, according to figures compiled by the American Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Class 1 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,000 pounds or less) edged up 2% from a year earlier and for the first 11 months of 1997.

Class 2 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,001 to 10,000 pounds) were up 10% for the month but were virtually unchanged year-to-date. Dealers sold 151,882 Class 2 trucks in November and 1,552,906 for the first 11 months of 1997.

Class 3 trucks (GVW ratings of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds) were the only class to decline. Sales for the month were 3,881 trucks, down 21% from a year earlier. For the year, however, Class 3 truck sales were up 5% from the first 11 months of 1996.

Class 4 trucks (GVW ratings of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds) were up 32% compared with November 1996 but were 7% short of the year-to-date sales of 1996. Dealers sold 4,767 Class 4 trucks in November and 51,099 for the first 11 months of 1997.

Class 6 trucks (GVW ratings of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds) increased 13% for the month but were off 8% for the year. Customers bought 1,352 Class 6 trucks in November and 16,483 for the first 11 months of 1997.

Class 7 trucks (GVW ratings of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds), with sales of 8,052 units, topped last November's sales by 28%. The sales surge helped dealers post a 9% increase over the corresponding 11-month period in 1996.

Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) also showed gains in both comparisons-16% for the month and 2% year-to-date. Dealers sold 13,675 Class 8 trucks in November and 159,803 for the first 11 months of 1997.

In other areas: Intermodal shipments were up a total of 6.7% in 1997, according to figures compiled by the Association of American Railroads. The rails carried 3,497,320 trailers (up 4.5%) and 5,316,434 containers (up 8.2%) for the 53-week period ending January 3.

Industrial production rose 0.8% in November following a gain of 0.5% in October, according to the Federal Reserve. At 127.3% of its 1992 average, industrial production was 5.6% higher than in November 1996.

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