Trailer Shipments Continue to Climb

GOOD TIMES and trailer shipments continued to roll in September, according to preliminary figures compiled by the U S Bureau of Census.

Manufacturers shipped an estimated 25,052 complete trailers during September, up 47% from a year earlier. Gains were widespread, but not universal. Dry-freight vans led the way with a stunning 86% increase. Factor out the 60% increase in FRP vans, and the result is a 97% increase in the number of aluminum dry-freight vans shipped.

September was a strong month for both platforms and lowbed trailers. Manufacturers of platforms exceeded September 1996 shipments by 28%, while lowbed shipments jumped 25%.

Not all types of trailers posted such strong gains, however. Dump trailers and tanks appeared to be the industry's weak spots. Dump trailers trailed shipments from a year earlier, slipping 16%. Tanks were down 15% when compared with September 1996.

In addition to the 25,052 complete trailers shipped during the month, the industry also turned out an estimated 1,526 containers and container chassis, down 38% from September 1996, and 231 dollies and converter gear, up 29%.

With three-fourths of the year now reported, it appears that the industry is on a pace to rival but not exceed its best year ever. Shipments of complete truck trailers totaled 196,026 for the first nine months of 1997, up 28% from the corresponding period of 1996. At this rate, trailer manufacturers would ship 261,368 complete trailers, compared with 279,144 that manufacturers turned out during 1995. The 1997 pace is well ahead of 1994, the industry's second-best year, when 234,287 complete trailers were shipped.

Truck Sales Strong Retail truck sales remained strong during September, based on figures published by the American Automobile Manufacturers Association. Sales for the month totaled 521,208 trucks, up 4% from September 1996. As always, however, sales fluctuated significantly by GVW rating. Here is how each class performed:

Class 1 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,000 pounds or less) were down 1% in September but were up 2% year to date. Dealers sold 351,163 Class 1 trucks for the month and 3,401,774 for the first nine months of 1997.

Class 2 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,001 to 10,000 pounds) were up 18% from September 1996, but sales were off 1% from last year's pace. Sales in September were 135,782. This brought the sales total to 1,243,949 for the first nine months of this year.

Class 3 trucks (GVW ratings of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds) were down 33% for the month but up 14% for the year. Dealers sold 3,128 Class 3 trucks in September and 40,880 through the first nine months of 1997.

Class 4 trucks (GVW ratings of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds) jump 26% during September with sales of 4,734 units. The total for the year was 41,947, up 19% from the corresponding period of 1996.

Class 6 trucks (GVW ratings of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds) edged up 6% during September but trailed last year's pace by 8%. Dealers sold 1,403 Class 6 trucks during September and 13,626 for the first nine months of 1997.

Class 7 trucks (GVW ratings of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds) surged 31% during September with sales of 9,731. Year-to-date sales also were up, but by a more modest 6%.

Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) were up 12% in September but were down 2% compared with the first nine months of 1996. Dealers sold 15,247 Class 8 trucks for the month and 128,066 year-to-date.

Related Areas In other areas:

* Intermodal traffic was up sharply during the first 44 weeks of 1997 compared with the corresponding period of 1996, according to figures compiled by the Association of American Railroads. Trailers were up 4.8%, while container traffic increased 8.9%. Total intermodal traffic was up 7.3%.

* Industrial production rose 0.7% in September, according to the Federal Reserve. At 122.4% of its 1992 average, industrial production in September was 5.5% higher than in September 1996.

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