TRAILER MANUFACTURERS did not ship nearly as many complete trailers in January as the US Bureau of Census originally reported. But even with a major downward revision, shipments were at historically high levels, as were the newly released figures for February.
Industry analysts have been saying that the monthly Census reports have been too high, a position that seems to be confirmed with the most recent report. The original estimate for January of 28,807 complete trailers has been revised down 21%. Census now says that the industry shipped 22,893 complete trailers to start 1999.
A Census veteran who compiles the annual survey of the trailer industry took over the monthly reports beginning with January. He said he has discovered errors in last year's reports and will be revising figures for all of 1998.
While the revision for January 1999 is significant for the total output of trailers, its only appreciable effect is on van trailers. Other major types either were unchanged or revised 5% or less. Aluminum dry-freight vans saw the largest revision-down 5,606 or 27% from the preliminary January estimate. By contrast, tanks were revised down only 2% and platforms 3%.
February shipments were up slightly from January's revised levels. Manufacturers shipped an estimated 23,080 complete trailers for the month, down 14% from the 26,720 shipped a year earlier. In addition to the complete trailers, manufacturers shipped an estimated 1,593 containers and container chassis, along with 277 dollies and converter gear.
For the first two months of 1999, manufacturers shipped an estimated 45,973 complete trailers, down 10% from the corresponding period of 1998. However, such a comparison is not particularly accurate since the 1998 figures will be revised.
Trucks Selling Briskly
Truck sales continued strong at the retail level, according to figures compiled by Wards Communications. Dealers sold just under 600,000 trucks in February, up 16% from a year earlier.
Class 1 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,000 pounds or less) were up 11% from February 1998 and were running 8% ahead of the first two months of 1998. Customers bought 378,892 Class 1 trucks in February and 706,332 for the first two months of 1999.
Class 2 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,001 to 10,000 pounds) topped February 1998 sales by 23% and were 20% ahead of 1998 on a year-to-date basis. With 171,869 Class 2 trucks sold during February, sales have reached 325,294 already in 1999.
Class 3 trucks (GVW ratings of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds) increased 48%, with sales of 8,626 vehicles. In the first two months of 1999, dealers sold 16,511 Class 3 trucks, up 52%.
Class 4 trucks (GVW ratings of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds) were up 19% for the month and 12% year to date. Customers bought 3,318 Class 4 trucks during February and 6,239 during the first two month of 1999.
Class 5 trucks (GVW ratings of 16,001 to 19,500 pounds) saw the biggest percentage of increase. The 2,637 Class 5 trucks sold in February were 143% above year-earlier levels, and the 4,866 sold during the first two months were up 87% from the corresponding period of 1998.
Class 6 trucks (GVW ratings of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds) also had a strong month-up 69% for the month and 67% year to date. Sales were 3,203 in February and 5,704 for the first two months of 1999.
Class 7 trucks (GVW ratings of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds) had sales increases of 42% and 29% for February and the first two months of 1999, respectively. February saw 12,114 new Class 7 trucks go into service, a total of 21,195 for the first two months of 1999.
Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) were up 27% for February and 26% for the year. Of the 34,605 Class 8 trucks sold during the first two months of 1999, February accounted for 18,384.