CLEAR has launched its latest forecast of the European market for heavy-goods vehicle trailers. Despite a reasonable start to the year after the record sales levels of 2004, the forecast for 2005 is a 5.4% reduction in sales.
Economic forecasts for GDP, and in particular, investment growth, have weakened again. In addition, the trailer replacement cycle is on a downturn. It is surprising that the market is performing as robustly as it is. The only support factor is the inclusion of the new East European markets in the European Union, which is giving a boost to international transport.
Looking forward, 2007 to 2009 are still forecast to be record years, but with lower growth levels than in either the late 1980s or 1990s.
In the past two years, the number three and four players in the market, Kögel of Germany and General Trailer of France, have gone into administrative proceedings. Kögel was restructured, but General Trailer was broken up and sold off piecemeal. In the United Kingdom, Crane Fruehauf, one of the oldest names in road haulage, went bust and only a small part of the company was saved. Southfields is another player who has gone.
Trailer production is forecast to exceed 200,000 units by 2009. Exports to nations outside Western Europe are expected to strengthen, especially to the east, helped by the new EU members. CLEAR considers some economic forecasters overly pessimistic regarding the outlook during the second half of this decade. The major risk to the forecast is that the pessimists are proved right.
Trailer manufacturers are proposing a 60-tonne vehicle as the future for Europe's crowded roads. It features a truck pulling two trailers — two of these combinations could replace three existing trucks, thereby reducing traffic congestion. Trucks like this are already used in Sweden and parts of the Netherlands near Rotterdam.