Census Revises Trailer Shipments Down 19%

March 1, 2000
Trailer shipments were far less robust than originally indicated, according to revised figures published by the U S Bureau of Census.In its recently published

Trailer shipments were far less robust than originally indicated, according to revised figures published by the U S Bureau of Census.

In its recently published Truck Trailers Summary for 1998, the Bureau reports that 277,419 complete trailers were shipped in 1998-down 19% from the sum of the 12 preliminary estimates published for each month of 1998.

Adding the 12 monthly reports indicated that the industry shipped 344,049 complete trailers in 1998. The revised totals contained in the summary for the year reduce the total significantly, but not uniformly by trailer type. Most types of trailers actually were revised upward.

Dry-freight vans took the biggest hit. The preliminary estimate of 240,860 dry-freight vans was too high-by 113,853 trailers. But not all vans were overestimated originally. For example, the revised totals for insulated trailers were revised upward 62% from the preliminary estimates. The Census Bureau counted 48,398 insulated trailers shipped in 1998, compared with a preliminary total of 29,854.

Other types of trailers having a better year in 1998 than earlier thought included livestock vans (revised upward 291%), open-top vans (up 71%); platforms (up 29%), lowbeds (up 9%), and dumps (up 45%).

With the 19% reduction in overall trailer shipments, trailer manufacturers did not have a record year in 1998. The volume of trailers shipped fell 1,725 trailers short (0.6%) of the record 279,144 trailers shipped in 1995.

Comparing the adjusted figures for 1998 with the final figures for 1997 indicates that the industry shipped 20% more trailers in 1998 than in the previous year. Vans were up slightly more than the industry as a whole-23%. The increase was led by a 49% increase in insulated vans and a 112% spike in shipments of dropframe vans.

In other segments, tank trailers were up 25% from 1997, platforms increased 9%, lowbeds edged up 5%, and dumps grew by 8%. Shipments of containers and container chassis were up 21% in 1998, and the volume of dollies and converter gear grew by 20%.

The Bureau of Census estimates the value of the trailers shipped during 1998 to be $5.43 billion-up from $4.37 billion in 1997. Dividing the total value of trailers shipped by the number of trailers shipped gives an average value of $19,575 for trailers leaving the plant in 1998. This compares with an average of $18,861 for trailers shipped during 1997.