Trailer shipments advanced 20.3% to 38,500 units in the third quarter, representing the first back-to-back quarterly year-over-year advance since the first quarter of 2000, according to Economic Planning Associates Inc. Trailer shipments, which had increased by 21.8% in the second quarter, were led by a 23.8% increase in van shipments. The 27,900 units shipped were 9.6% higher than the third quarter of 2001. Strong quarterly advances in dump and platform trailers lifted third-quarter non-van shipments 12.2% above the second quarter and 9.5% ahead of the comparable period last year.“We have been projecting a less than 10% annual decline in 2002 trailer shipments all year long, and the latest survey results are confirming our forecast,” EPA president Peter Toja said. “In fact, we would not be surprised to see even more favorable annual results if the current momentum in trailer demand accelerates moderately in the fourth quarter. In either case, we believe that the improving trailer environment will spill over in 2003, which will mark the beginning of the next annual up cycle in trailer shipments extending into 2007."Toja said that while economic momentum has hesitated in recent months, he still believes the economy is fundamentally sound.“Our projected path of the economic recovery indicates that a number of trailer markets will be improving through the end of this year and throughout 2003,” he said. “Favorable demographic factors and low mortgage rates will continue to support home sales and housing starts next year, while the recent interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve will serve to boost not only housing and household goods demand, but also demand for a variety of consumer products, including light vehicles. “With consumer spending advancing, construction activities at high levels, imports rising, exports reviving, and capital equipment purchases poised to rebound, truck traffic will be rising through the end of this year and throughout next year. The eventual resolution of the labor strike among West Coast ports will be an added boost to both truck and intermodal activities next year.”Toja said EPA’s expectations of high levels of light vehicle sales and production should promote demand for dry freight vans and auto carriers, while housing starts and construction activities lift demand for dumps, low beds, and platform trailers. He said expanding manufacturing activities will stimulate demand for diverse trailer equipment to transport not only finished products, but also the raw materials, intermediate products, and componentry associated with the finished products.