The three-year slide in trailer shipments is over, according to Economic Planning Associates Inc (EPA Inc) of Smithtown NY. The industry shipped 174,000 trailers in 2003 — up 25.9% from what EPA Inc's Peter Toja calls the “dismal” 2002 level of 138,200 trailers.
Leading the way was the van segment with a 32.8% gain. Shipments of dry-freight vans were particularly strong, growing 38.9% in 2003.
Excluding van shipments, the rest of the industry increased 6.8% over the 2002 level.
The year ended strong. According to EPA Inc's latest survey of trailer manufacturers, they shipped 45,000 trailers during the final three months of 2003, 4.4% higher than the third quarter, and 8.2% above the corresponding period of 2002.
“At the same time, the improvement in the overall economy last year and the continued high levels of construction activities prompted a rebound in log and pipe as well as in all other non-vans in 2003,” Toja said. “In 2004, we anticipate continued growth in shipments of a variety of trailers as our expanding economy leads to greater traffic flows and improvements in trucking revenues and profitability. At the same time, low interest rates, moderate inflation, and the more liberal depreciation guidelines of the Tax Stimulus Bill will facilitate the investment decision. In addition, the lack of interest in new trailer equipment during recent years has served to further age the existing fleet, which will intensify replacement pressures as we proceed through 2004 and into 2005.”
The growth in United States economic activity moved into high gear in the second half of 2003, Toja said. “Recent revisions indicate that real GDP accelerated at an 8.2% clip (annualized rate) in the third quarter, while preliminary figures point to a 4.0% gain in the fourth quarter. In addition to the robust advance in consumer spending, no doubt due to the July tax cut, strong growth in productivity induced income gains, rising consumer confidence, a perception of easing in the difficult job market, and a revival in demand for business equipment added to last year's second half performance.”