EPA Inc reports strong growth in trailer shipments

Trailer manufacturers had another year of growth in 2004, according to figures compiled by Economic Planning Associates (EPA Inc), Smithtown, New York.

EPA Inc survey participants reported shipping 223,625 complete trailers last year, a 29% increase from 2003. Gains were widespread, as every major trailer category posted double-digit growth when compared with last year’s performance. Platform trailers led the way with a 61% increase. Even lowbed trailers, with the smallest increase among trailer types, increased 20%.

Here is how each major category performed last year, according to EPA Inc:

• Dry freight vans: 126,800 shipped last year, up 27%.

• Insulated vans: 33,600, up 28%.

• All other vans: 10,000, up 25%.

• Platforms: 20,650, up 61%.

• Tanks: 6,200, up 33%.

• Lowbeds: 10,700, up 20%

• Dumps: 8,100, up 26%

• Bulk: 2,325, up 39%.

• All other trailers: 5,250, up 2%

In addition to the complete trailers, EPA Inc counted 2,400 containers that were shipped last year, down 36%, and 11,650 container chassis, up 11%.

As strong as 2004 was, there was still room for more.

“After advancing at a sharp pace in the first half of 2004, the momentum in trailer shipments slowed during the second half of last year,” says Peter Toja, president of EPA Inc. “Our latest survey of the trailer manufacturers indicated that while fourth quarter shipments were relatively flat with the third quarter performance, the year-over-year advance in the fourth quarter was formidable. During last year’s closing quarter, van shipments were running 27.5% above the year ago level, while non-van shipments were 31.1% ahead of the year-ago pace.”

EPA Inc is optimistic about what 2005 holds for trailer manufacturers.

“We expect further modest gains in quarterly trailer shipments through 2005 and into 2006,” Toja says. “The only dampener in our near-term outlook is the escalation in 2004 and 2005 equipment prices due to the rising costs of new materials and components.”

Among the reasons EPA Inc expects continued strength in trailer demand:

• Interest rates will remain historically low

• Inflation remains low, despite oil prices.

• Personal income jumped 3.7% in December, the largest monthly advance ever. Early estimates indicate that consumer spending in real terms advanced at 4.6% annualized clip last quarter.

• The industrial sector also closed the year at a healthy pace. Manufacturing activities expanded throughout 2004, and, order backlogs were increasing through the end of last year.

• Construction activities will remain at high levels.

• Growth in consumer and business spending will bolster production activities and the movements of raw materials, components, and intermediate products associated with final product production.

• Exports and imports will lead to rising merchandise trade volumes.

• Trailers are aging rapidly.

• Trucking revenues and profits are improving.

Complete details and short- and long-term forecasts of customer market activities will be provided in next month’s edition of the EPA Inc quarterly Truck and Trailer report to clients.

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