Trailer Shipments Slip in October

SHIPMENTS of complete truck trailers continued to slide in October, falling to their lowest level since December 1996, according to preliminary estimates published by the U S Bureau of Census.

Manufacturers shipped an estimated 17,173 complete trailers, a 7% decline from September and 36% below October 1999. Any way you want to look at it - compared with last month, a year ago, or year-to-date - trailer shipments were not as good as they have been.

Double-digit declines were the norm. Total van shipments were off 34% from October 1999. Platforms dropped 48%. Dump trailers were down 54%. It wasn't pretty.

Tanks were one of the better performers - down only 6% from October 1999. Within that segment, though, were some extreme variations. Gasoline tankers carried the load in October, up 57% from a year earlier. Chemical and acid tanks, however, were almost as weak as gasoline tankers were strong - losing 44%. It was that decline, combined with a 26% decline in asphalt and other trailers, that drove overall tank shipments down 6% for the month.

Containers and container chassis (not included in the total for complete trailers) also were down in October. The 1,950 containers and chassis shipped during the month were 19% below October 1999.

With only November and December left to count, trailer manufacturers had shipped 210,652 complete trailers during 2000 - a pace that would give them a respectable 252,750 total for the year. However, that was based on a strong first half, when manufacturers averaged shipping 22,608 complete trailers per month.

Truck sales at the dealer level continued to soften in October, according to figures compiled by Ward's Communications. Overall, the 636,270 trucks sold were down 1% from October 1999. However, sales for the first 10 months of 2000 remained up 4% compared with the corresponding period of 1999.

Class 1 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,000 pounds or less) were the main bright spot, up 5% for the month and 6% year to date. October sales were 399,070, giving dealers total sales of 4,394,973 Class 1 trucks for the year.

Class 2 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,001 to 10,000 pounds) were down 6% in October (194,084 trucks sold). However, the 2,048,289 Class 2 trucks sold during the first 10 months of 2000 were up 4% from last year.

Class 3 trucks (GVW ratings of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds) were off 6% in October and 3% for the first 10 months of 2000. Sales totaled 9,406 and 99,192 Class 3 trucks for the month and year, respectively.

Class 4 trucks (GVW ratings of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds) were down 13% in October and 4% for the year. Dealers sold 3,587 Class 4 trucks for the month and 40,201 for the first 10 months of 2000.

Class 5 trucks (GVW ratings of 16,001 to 19,500 pounds) edged down 2% for the month and 5% for the year. Customers bought 2,213 Class 5 trucks during October and 24,481 for the first 10 months of the year.

Class 6 trucks (GVW ratings of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds) were down 34% compared with the 4,783 trucks sold during October 1999. The 45,432 Class 6 trucks sold during the first 10 months of 2000, however, topped last year by 15%.

Class 7 trucks (GVW ratings of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds) were down in both comparisons. The 10,298 Class 7 trucks sold in October were down 5% from a year earlier. The 107,816 trucks sold during the first 10 months of 2000 were 3% below the 1999 total.

Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) took the biggest hit, dropping 37% in October and 15% through the first 10 months of 2000. Dealers sold 14,440 Class 8 trucks for the month and 184,497 year to date.

Elsewhere:

- Industrial production edged down 0.1% in October after increases in August and September, according to the Federal Reserve. At 146.3% of its 1992 average, industrial production was 5.2% higher than in October 1999.

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