TRAILER MANUFACTURERS enjoyed their best October in history, according to preliminary figures compiled by the U S Bureau of Census.
The industry shipped an estimated 25,146 complete trailers during the month, Census says. The performance marked the fourth consecutive month in which trailer manufacturers set records. The most productive July, August, September, and October in industry history all occurred during the last half of 1997.
The 25,146 trailers shipped in October also were the second highest of any month in history. Only the 28,957 complete trailers shipped in March 1995 topped what manufacturers accomplished in October.
It's almost as if there is no comparison to what plants were producing a year ago. Shipments of complete truck trailers were up a resounding 48% from October 1996. Gains could be found among almost every type of trailer. Vans were up 64% from a year earlier, including an 84% spike in dry-freight trailers. Open-tops were the only type of van to finish down (-11%) from a year ago.
Among other major types of trailers, tanks edged down 3% as a result in declines in asphalt and miscellaneous tanks such as cryogenics. Tanks for flammable liquids, along with chemical and acid trailers, posted increases in excess of 20%. Platform trailers were up 26% from October 1996, while lowbeds edged up 5%, and dump trailers slipped 3%.
In addition to the 25,146 complete trailers, manufacturers shipped an estimated 1,828 containers and container chassis in October, down 22% from 12 months earlier, and 247 dollies and converter gear, down 20% from the same period.
The industry is on a pace rival, but not exceed, the 279,144 trailers shipped during the record year of 1995. Starting with July, shipments have exceeded the corresponding month of two years ago. However, a relatively slow first half in 1997 will be extremely difficult to overcome.
Truck Sales Brisk Truck sales softened somewhat in October but were still at historically high levels. Retail truck sales lost 2% when compared with October 1996, but they remained 1% above last year's levels. According to figures compiled by the American Automobile Manufacturers Association:
Class 1 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,000 pounds or less) were down 5% from October 1996 but were still up 2% for the first 10 months of 1997. Dealers sold 372,238 Class 1 trucks during the month and 3,774,012 year-to-date.
Class 2 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,001 to 10,000 pounds) were stable-edging up 1% in October but slipping 1% for the year. An estimated 157,075 Class 2 trucks went into the marketplace during the month, with a total of 1,401,024 for the year.
Class 3 trucks (GVW ratings of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds) had one of those months-down 33% from October 1996. Despite the decline, sales were up 8% for the first 10 months of 1997. By selling 3,779 Class 3 trucks in October, dealers raised year-to-date sales to 44,659 units.
Class 4 trucks (GVW ratings of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds) were off 3% in October and 10% for the first 10 months of 1997. Customers bought 4,620 Class 4 trucks for the month and 46,332 year-to-date
Class 6 trucks (GVW ratings of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds) had a 21% drop in sales for the month, with only 1,505 vehicles sold. Sales for the year totaled 15,131 Class 6 trucks, a 10% decrease.
Class 7 trucks (GVW ratings of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds) were one of the bright spots in the truck market. Dealers sold 10,352 Class 7 trucks during the month, up 19% from the corresponding period of 1996. The 96,664 vehicles sold year-to-date represent a 7% increase from a year earlier.
Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) also had a good month. The 18,062 Class 8 trucks sold in October were 28% more than the 14,115 vehicles purchased in October 1996. Sales for the year were up 1%.
In a related area, intermodal shipments continued to grow, according to figures compiled by the Association of American Railroads. Through the first 49 weeks of 1997, the rails transported 3,270,129 trailers (up 4.7%) and 4,969,448 containers (up 8.5%).