Trailer shipments increase 9% in first quarter

Shipments of complete truck trailers grew by 9% during the first quarter of 2005, according to the quarterly survey of trailer manufacturers conducted by ACT Research, Columbus, Indiana.

Manufacturers reported shipping a total of 59,944 complete trailers during the first three months of 2005, compared with 54,953 shipped during the first quarter last year. Platform trailers led the way with a 41% increase. Vans edged up 6%, and remaining trailer types (including tanks, dumps, and other specialized trailers) were up 9%.

Shipments, however, were down slightly when compared with those of the previous quarter. Platforms continued strong—up 9% from the last quarter of 2004, but vans slipped 4%, and all other trailer types edged down 1%.

“In spite of a modest pull-back in March, the 82,000 trailer net orders booked in the first quarter represent the strongest order quarter since the first quarter of 1999,” says Kenny Vieth with ACT Research. Trailer shipments in 1999 were the highest on record.

“The industry appears to be working through early in the year supply chain kinks as build rates have risen and factory inventories fell in March after a sharp increase in January and February.”

Trailer manufacturers reported that factory inventories grew by over 4,000 units in January and February. In March, build held steady at just over 1,000 units per day, and factory inventories fell 12% as the industry started to work-off the build-up of incomplete trailers that were red-tagged in January and February.

While the trailer side of the market is strong, intermodal equipment orders remained below levels experienced in 2003 and 2004, according to ACT Research.

“We suspect that some combination of railroad capacity constraints, Chinese competition in the domestic container market, and liability issues revolving around chassis maintenance are all playing a part in softer intermodal equipment demand at the start of 2005,” Vieth said.

Orders have outpaced build for two quarters. As such, ACT Research expects modest increases in build rates in coming quarters.

“The strength of any near-term build growth is dependant on the rate of orders in the second quarter and the ability of industry suppliers to grow capacity,” Vieth said. “We anticipate that U S trailer build in 2005 should be in the neighborhood of 260,000 to 265,000 units.”

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