Trailer Shipments Strengthen in May

AFTER reaching a five-month low in April, trailer shipments bounced back in May, according to a preliminary report published by the U S Bureau of Census.

Manufacturers shipped an estimated 22,127 complete trailers in May, the report indicated, up 7% from April. The performance, however, was 4% below the 22,985 complete trailers that the industry shipped in May 1999.

The month was smooth to slightly choppy, with most types of trailers posting gains when compared with the previous month but generally trailing May 1999 shipments. Comparing May 2000 with May 1999:

Vans were down 9% (16,350 trailers shipped). Insulated trailers bucked the trend by posting a 3% gain. Dry-freight vans were off 11%.

Tanks edged up 1% from May 1999, according to Census early estimates. Flammable liquids rose 8%, and chemical and acid tanks moved up 10%.

Manufacturers shipped 2,055 platform trailers, up 6% from a year earlier, and the 1,180 lowbed trailers shipped during May also topped last year by 6%. Some dump trailer manufacturers are questioning preliminary estimates for their product. Census reports that 1,079 dump trailers were shipped during the month, up 18% from April and 29% ahead of last year's pace. However, informal conversations with individual dump trailer manufacturers indicate that the dump trailer market dropped off during the last half of 1999, and shipments year-to-date are about 20% below the corresponding period of 1999. When asked about the discrepancy, Census pointed out that relatively few dump trailer manufacturers were sending in their figures. The Bureau promised to review its estimates but also pointed out that the accuracy of the estimates would improve if more manufacturers participated in the voluntary monthly survey.

Based on preliminary Census Bureau estimates, manufacturers shipped an estimated 112,939 complete trailers during the first five months of 2000, down 3% from a year earlier.

Truck Sales Edge Up Retail truck sales in May were up slightly from a year earlier, according to figures compiled by Ward's Communications.

Class 1 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,000 pounds or less) were up 1% from May 1999, and year-to-date sales were 9% above last year's levels. Sales for May and for the first five months of 2000 totaled 468,414 and 2,220,263 trucks, respectively.

Class 2 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,001 to 10,000 pounds) were up 8% for the month (with 230,819 trucks sold) and finished 10% above results for the first five months of 1999.

Class 3 trucks (GVW ratings of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds) got mixed reviews in May. The 10,585 Class 3 trucks that were sold during the month were 8% fewer than May 1999, but the 50,989 total for the first five months of 2000 is a 1% increase.

Class 4 trucks (GVW ratings of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds) slipped 5% for the month but were virtually unchanged year-to-date. Dealers sold 4,521 Class 4 trucks in May, and the 21,016 sold during the first five months of 2000 were only 35 fewer than were sold during the corresponding period of 1999.

Class 5 trucks (GVW ratings of 16,001 to 19,500 pounds) increased 13% for the month but were down 8% for the year. Customers bought 2,804 Class 5 trucks in May and 12,382 during the first five months of 2000.

Class 6 trucks (GVW ratings of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds) showed the biggest growth-up 35% in May and 38% for the year. A total of 4,921 Class 6 trucks were sold during May and 23,334 for the first five months of 2000.

Class 7 trucks (GVW ratings of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds) had their ups and downs-up 10% for the month and down 2% for the first five months of the year. Dealers sold 11,912 Class 7 trucks during May, for a total of 55,347 sold year to date.

Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) were down 6% for the month and 4% for the year. Customers bought 21,047 Class 8 trucks during May and 99,978 for the first five months of 2000.

Elsewhere: * Intermodal shipments continued to climb, according to figures compiled by the Association of American Railroads. For the first 27 weeks of 2000, a total of 4,718,557 intermodal units rode the rails-up 3.2% from the corresponding period of 1999. Of those, 1,530,251 were piggyback trailers (down 9%), and 3,188,306 were containers (up 10.3%).

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