Trailer production, shipments post gains

TRAILER production and shipments rose sharply during the third quarter, up 30% sequentially and 19% year-over-year to 42,300 units, according to figures compiled by ACT Research.

Total industry shipments (including products such as container chassis and converter dollies) of 48,400 units in the third quarter were up just 5% year over year due to soft container and chassis output.

Despite improving conditions, trailer and total industry shipments remained below year-ago levels. Through September, trailer shipments were 14% below year-to-date 2001, and total industry shipments were down 22%. Van trailers were down 1.9%, all other trailers were down 16%, and containers, chassis, and dollies were down 51.2%.

Compared with the third quarter of 2001, the biggest gain was seen in van trailers, which rose 22.5% (25,330 to 31,034). All other trailers were up 11.7% (10,088 to 11,265), making the gain in total trailers 19.4% (35,418 to 42,299). A 43.5% decline in containers, chassis, and dollies (10,809 to 6,108) dented the industry total, which rose by just 4.7% (46,227 to 48,407).

While production rose sharply in the third quarter, trailer orders followed the path of the US economy, softening considerably following a strong second quarter. The combination of soft orders and rising production caused industry order-backlogs to fall for a third consecutive month in September.

“Backlogs falling relative to build through the third quarter make the fourth quarter a crossroads of sorts,” said ACTR's Kenny Vieth. “While we expect trailer production to post another sequential gain during the fourth quarter, stronger orders will be required in the fourth quarter to maintain current production rates in early 2003.”

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