Trailer Shipments Top January Record

NEW YEAR. Same start.

Just as they did last year, trailer manufacturers began the New Year with the fastest start on record. According to a preliminary report from the U S Bureau of Census, the industry shipped an estimated 28,807 complete trailers during the first month of 1999, the best January output ever.

Trailer manufacturers appear to have had their best year in history in 1998-primarily by starting the year off fast and getting stronger as the year progressed. And the output for the first month of 1999 is even better than last year's beginning, topping January 1998 shipments by an impressive 18%.

As has been the case throughout the recent boom in trailer shipments, van trailers have led the way. However, other types of trailers also posted gains to start the year. Among the trailers performing at or above the industry average were:

o Insulated vans, 2,518 shipped in January, up 20% from a year earlier.

o Dry-freight vans, 20,685 shipped, up 25%.

o Tank trailers for flammable liquids, 175 shipped in January, up 22%.

In addition to the 28,807 complete trailers shipped during January, the industry turned out an estimated 1,711 containers and container chassis, up 28% from January 1998.

Not all the news was up in January, however. While the best January on record, shipments were down 2% from December. It was the fourth consecutive month in which trailer shipments declined from the previous month. Since September 1998 when an unprecedented 31,570 trailers were shipped, volume has slipped 9%.

Truck Sales Increase

Truck sales continued to boom in January, according to figures compiled by Wards Communications. Every GVW class posted gains from January 1998. A total of 521,703 new trucks were sold during January, up 9% from January 1998. Sales were particularly strong among the medium and heavy trucks. Here is how the market performed in January:

Dealers sold 327,440 Class 1 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,000 pounds or less) during January, up 4% from a year earlier.

Class 2 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,001 to 10,000 pounds) grew by 17% to start the year. Customers bought 153,425 Class 2 trucks in January, compared with 131,272 a year earlier.

Class 3 trucks (GVW ratings of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds) were particularly in demand. The 7,885 Class 3 trucks sold during January were 55% more than the 5,071 sold during January 1998.

Class 4 trucks (GVW ratings of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds) edged up 6% from a year earlier. Dealers sold 2,921 Class 4 trucks in January, compared with 2,768 sold 12 months earlier.

Class 5 trucks (GVW ratings of 16,001 to 19,501 pounds) were up even more-46% compared with January 1998. The score: 2,229 Class 5 trucks in January vs 1,524 a year ago.

Class 6 trucks (GVW ratings of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds) were the fastest-growing segment in the month. The 2,501 Class 6 trucks sold in January were 63% more than the total for the first month in 1998.

Class 7 trucks (GVW ratings of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds) topped January 1998 by 15%. Customers bought 9,081 Class 7 trucks during the month, compared with 7,865 a year earlier.

Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) grew by 24%. Dealers sold 16,221 Class 8 trucks during January, up from 13,072 for the corresponding month of 1998.

In other areas:

o Intermodal shipments were up 3.3% for the first eight weeks of 1999, according to figures compiled by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The number of piggyback trailers riding the rails continued to decline, this time by 0.4%. However, container traffic offset the lower figure for piggyback trailers. AAR counted 841,125 containers on major U S railroads for the first eight weeks of 1999, up 5.7% from the corresponding period of 1998.

o Industrial production was unchanged in January, according to the Federal Reserve. At 136.7% of its 1992 average, manufacturing production in January was 2.2% higher than it had been in January 1998.

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