EPA Inc reports 9% gain in truck trailer shipments

Trailer shipments edged up 9% in 2005, according to figures compiled by EPA Inc of Smithtown, New York.

Manufacturers shipped 244,170 complete trailers for the year, up from 223,625 shipped in 2004.

Platforms and tanks both had particularly strong years, up 28% and 29%, respectively. Manufacturers shipped an estimated 26,400 platform trailers last year. Tank trailer shipments were estimated at 8,000 for the year.

Compared with these two categories, other types of trailers were relatively flat. However, the industry was up across the board, according to EPA Inc. Every type of complete trailer grew by at least 2% compared with 2004.

Here are the results by category:

• Dry freight vans: 131,800 shipped during 2005, up 4%.

• Insulated vans: 38,850, up 16%.

• All other vans: 10,600, up 6%.

• Platforms: 26,400, up 28%.

• Tanks: 8,000, up 29%.

• Lowbeds: 11,300, up 6%.

• Dumps: 9,350, up 15%.

• Bulk commodity: 2,325, up 8%.

• All other trailers: 5,350, up 2%.

The industry finished the year with a flourish, according to Peter Toja, president of EPA Inc.

“After a brief pause in the third quarter, trailer shipments advanced at a brisk pace in last year’s closing quarter,” Toja says. “A 9.2% increase in fourth quarter shipments from the previous quarter brought full year 2005 shipments to 244,200 units, 9.2% above the 2004 level.

“While we believe that the fourth quarter surge in trailer shipments will be a hard act to follow, we remain constructive on the outlook for trailers during the next two years.”

Toja believes the residential segment of the construction market will ease moderately this year. However, he expects stronger outlays for public, commercial, and industrial projects. Spending is expected to be particularly strong along the Gulf Coast over the next two years as the area continues to rebuild following last summer’s devastating hurricanes.

The manufacturing sector is another area Toja expects to be strong in 2006.

“Further growth in domestic demand and exports will promote not only the movements of final products, but also the movements of components, intermediate products, and raw materials associated with final products,” he says.

After a relatively slow the fourth quarter in overall economic activities, Toja expects a stronger growth in the quarters ahead.

“Consumer spending will remain on track, a weaker dollar value and some improvements in the economic activities of our major trading partners will lift exports, and a long neglected capital goods segment will continue expanding during the forecast horizon,” Toja says. “The growth in these major sectors will promote further gains in factory output and increased demand for vans and containers.”

One of Toja’s negatives: rising interest rates.

“We remain concerned with regard to the continued efforts by the Federal Reserve to contain inflationary pressures by raising interest rates,” he says. “While we have not yet felt any significant economic slowing because of rates, it is only a matter of time before higher rates impact consumer credit card rates, mortgage rates, and financial costs to businesses. At the same time, we are somewhat heartened by the recent easing in oil prices and hope that this will lead to a lessened fear of inflation and a softer Fed approach to interest rates in the coming months.”

Last year was not a strong one for the production of intermodal equipment. Container and chassis shipments posted a very modest 2.4% gain last year. However, Toja expects advances in container and chassis shipments during the foreseeable future.

“After a robust 10.4% jump in 2004, intermodal traffic advanced at the healthy pace of 6.4% last year,” Toja says. “As a result, intermodal revenues are garnering an increasing share of railroad revenues and are causing railroads to focus more attention on improving service in order to accommodate further growth in traffic.”

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