Trailer shipments surge in 4th quarter

Feb. 1, 2003
SHIPMENTS of complete truck trailers were up sharply in the fourth quarter of 2002, according to figures compiled by Economic Planning Associates of Smithtown,

SHIPMENTS of complete truck trailers were up sharply in the fourth quarter of 2002, according to figures compiled by Economic Planning Associates of Smithtown, New York.

“Our latest survey indicates that fourth-quarter trailer shipments amounted to 41,600 units, 8.1% above the previous quarter and a whopping 41.3% higher than the similar quarter of 2001,” said Peter Toja, president.

For all of 2002, manufacturers shipped 138,200 complete trailers, the company reported. The total was down 5% from 2001, the result of what Toja described as “a dismal start in the first quarter of 2002.”

Demand for trailers rebounded in the second quarter, Toja said, and gathered momentum through the end of 2002.

Dry freight and refrigerated vans, platforms, and dump trailers were particularly strong at the end of 2002. For all of last year, dump trailers and platforms posted sharp gains, refrigerated trailer shipments were flat, and dry freight vans slipped 4.6% below 2001 totals.

“More importantly, our analysis of major customer markets indicates that the three-year slide in trailer demand is over,” Toja said. “We expect that 2003 will mark the beginning of the next cyclical upturn in trailer shipments which should extend out to the year 2008.”

Here is a look at some of the factors affecting demand for trucks and trailers:

  • Consumer spending advanced approximately 3.1% last year, fueled by strong growth in durable goods purchases. The strong housing market kept demand for household goods at a high level, and $160 billion in home refinancing helped make more cash available to consumers.

  • Light-vehicle sales reached 16.8 million units, the fourth-highest level ever. However, slow job markets, the threat of war with Iraq, and rising oil prices have made the consumer cautious in recent months, Toja said. “After a slow start, consumer spending will pick up during the spring and gather momentum during the second half of this year and into 2004.

    “Auto sales are slated to ease moderately this year; demand for household goods and other durables will advance, aided by continued infusions of funds from home refinancing. Next year, auto sales are expected to rebound while demand for appliances, furniture, and consumer electronics rises at a somewhat faster clip than this year. With the nondurable goods and services sectors responding to growth in consumer income and the level of consumer confidence, we look for modest growth in these categories this year, followed by stronger growth next year.”

  • Capital equipment was in greater demand during the last quarter of 2002 and should grow throughout 2003, Toja said.

  • Exports should increase. The economies of major United States trading partners, especially Canada and Mexico, are expected to improve. This and the recent easing of the U S dollar, should stimulate exports.

  • Gains in manufacturing. Toja expects this to be the result of rising consumer demand, a revival in business equipment purchases, accelerating exports, and steady demand for construction materials. Manufacturing output is expected to grow throughout 2003 and into 2004.

“Based on these factors, we look for a rebound in annual trailer shipments this year followed by further growth in 2004,” Toja said.

Complete details and forecasts, as well as shipments of individual trailer types and containers and chassis, are contained in the March 2003 edition of the quarterly Truck and Trailer Report that the company sends to its clients.