Another 'Best Month'For Trailer Shipments

TRAILER MANUFACTURERS continued on a record pace in April, according to preliminary figures published by the US Bureau of Census.

The industry shipped an estimated 27,727 complete trailers in April, 20% more than any other April in history and the third most productive month ever. The previous best April was in 1995 when manufacturers shipped 23,033 complete trailers.

This has been a regular occurrence since July, according to preliminary Census reports. During the 10 months between July and April, the industry has turned out an estimated 253,933 complete trailers, a pace that would produce almost 305,000 trailers in a 12-month period.

In 1998 alone, manufacturers are doing even better. Through the first four months of the year, the industry shipped an estimated 107,777 complete trailers, an average of 26,944 per month. At this rate, shipments for the year would be more than 323,000 complete trailers, making the record year of 1995 almost look like bad times. Manufacturers shipped 279,144 complete trailers in 1995.

As usual, van trailers are determining the direction of the industry. Overall shipments are 36% ahead of last year's. Vans are up 46%, but tanks are turning in a comparably strong increase. Manufacturers shipped an estimated 2,084 tank trailers during the first four months of 1998, up 42% from the corresponding period of 1997.

Truck Sales Up Truck sales continued to climb in April, according to figures compiled by the American Automobile Manufacturers Association. Truck dealers across the United States sold 631,076 trucks in April, up 11% from year-earlier levels.

Class 1 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,000 pounds or less) edged up in April. Dealers sold 405,412 trucks during the month, up 8% from April 1997. Sales for the year totaled 1,474,876, up 2% from the first four months of 1997.

Class 2 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,001 to 10,000 pounds) were up 13% compared with the first four months of last year, thanks in part to a 17% increase in April. Dealers sold 178,811 Class 2 trucks during the month, bringing the total for the year to 553,669 Class 2 trucks sold.

Class 3 trucks (GVW ratings of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds) were a bright spot in a hot market. The 9,255 units sold in April topped year-earlier sales by 70%, moving year-to-date sales 41% ahead of the first four months of 1997.

Class 4 trucks (GVW ratings of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds) were the only class to decline in April. The 4,109 Class 4 trucks sold during the month were 23% below April 1997, and the 13,339 year-to-date total fell 27% short of matching the first four months of last year.

Class 6 trucks (GVW ratings of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds) showed a lot of volatility. The 3,000 sold in April were off 1% from the previous month but were up 94% from April 1997. The 9,458 Class 6 trucks that entered service during the first four months of 1998 were 55% more than the total for the corresponding period of 1997.

Class 7 trucks (GVW ratings of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds) held steady. The 9,850 Class 7 trucks sold in April were down 5% from a year earlier. However, the year-to-date sales of 36,432 were up 1% from the first four months of 1997.

Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) were up 17% for the month and 16% for the year. Dealers sold 18,448 Class 8 trucks in April and 63,560 for the first four months of 1998.

In other areas: * Intermodal shipments were up 1.2% for the first 20 weeks of 1998, according to figures compiled by the Association of American Railroads. Trailers continued to slide, down 2.4% for the period. However, railroads carried 2,053,604 containers during the same period, up 3.6% from the first 20 weeks of 1997.

* Industrial production rose 0.1% in April after a revised 0.3% increase in March, according to the Federal Reserve. At 127.8% of its 1992 average, total industrial production in April was 3.8% higher than it was in April 1997.

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