In the latest Trailer Market Forecast Report for Western Europe it is assumed that only Germany out of the Big 7 economies will have positive GDP in 2012. The outlook has got worse very rapidly, and this deterioration has fed directly into slowing trailer sales. In the first quarter trailer demand was up 0.4%, but it will finish the year down 6.3%.
CLEAR has been forecasting a slowdown in 2012 for several years, so this has not come as a surprise. What is more important is that the economic outlook to 2016 has been downgraded in every year and this will inevitably have an impact on long term trailer demand.
GDP growth for the region is forecast at only 0.2% in 2013, but will average 1.5% in the three subsequent years when investment growth will average 3.2%. Therefore, there will be growth in trailer demand in the second half of 2013, followed by more solid growth through to 2016.
The report includes data on the demand for road transport in the Big 7 West European economies, which in 2011 languished at 11.6% below the level of 2006 (measured in tonne-km). The consequence of this fact is that a smaller trailer parc (fleet size) can meet the reduced demand for transport. Hence the parc will fall in four out of five years from 2009 to 2013.
Against this gloomy possibility, it can be argued that the trailer parc has been falling in almost all West European countries. This means that the number of trailers available is more closely aligned to the demand for transport that exists. If transport companies do not buy new trailers they must pay the increased maintenance costs of servicing an aging fleet, which eventually becomes economically untenable.
The most likely scenario is that, after the hiatus of 2012 and the first half of 2013, we will be into a more stable period of trailer demand growth and parc renewal. From 2013 to 2016 trailer demand will grow in every country in almost every year. However, trailer parc growth will average only 0.3% per annum, as the increase in trailer demand will be insufficient to grow the parc any faster.
Gary Beecroft of CLEAR stated that “By this time next year the worst of the current dip in trailer demand will be behind us, but a return to the trailer demand levels of 2007/8 in unlikely in this decade.”