Trailer shipments increase sharply in third quarter

Shipments of complete trailers increased 29% in the third quarter, according to figures compiled by ACT Research.

Manufacturers shipped an estimated 60,016 trailers in the July-September period, compared with 46,570 during the corresponding period of 2003. Of those, 43,365 were vans (up 26% from a year earlier). Remaining trailer types such as platforms, dumps, and tanks performed even better — up 37%.

Third-quarter shipments were the best of the year, just barely beating the 59,929 complete trailers shipped during the second quarter.

Through the first nine months of 2004, the industry shipped an estimated 174,898 complete trailers. By contrast, manufacturers shipped 183,163 trailers for all of 2003.

“After an extremely soft order activity through the summer, industry orders rebounded in September to their highest level since April to 24,200 units,” says Kenny Vieth with ACT Research. “Perhaps truckers have finally given up on the notion that trailer price hikes enacted early in the year would be rolled back. September's strong order volume allowed industry backlogs to rise for the first time since April.”

Vieth says that the backlog cushion that the industry enjoyed over the summer was eroded by soft orders and rising production rates.

“For the industry to sustain, or grow from current production rates, orders above the rate of build will be needed the next two quarters in order to rebuild the backlog,” Vieth says. “Historically, orders are strongest in the fourth quarter of one year and the first quarter of the next. They tend to taper off in the second and third quarters.

“We remain bullish on the industry's outlook. The economy is healthy — including very strong growth in the freight-intensive manufacturing sector. Truckers are reporting healthy profits. For the first time since deregulation, truckers are able to pass costs and margin growth through to shippers.”

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