Trailer Shipments Soften with Market

IT WAS JELLO in July.

Trailer manufacturers and industry analysts have been talking about a softening in the market in recent months, and the most recent monthly report from the U S Bureau of Census showed just that. The industry shipped 18,903 complete truck trailers during the month, the lowest level in three years. The number represents a 17% drop from the prior month and is 28% down from the 26,171 trailers shipped in July 1999.

Granted these numbers are preliminary, they are estimates, and they are being compared to the industry's best year on record (see story, Page 38). But they also reflect a slowing of the torrid pace that the industry has been enjoying in recent years.

Declines were universal for almost every type of trailer that Census tracks. It was difficult to find a trailer that was not down by double digits, much less to run across some upstream-swimming salmon that actually gained ground during the month. Bulk commodity trailers and pole and logging trailers were the only types of trailer to buck the trend, posting 2% and 14% gains, respectively, when compared with July 1999.

Beyond that, it was all downhill. Dry-freight vans were hanging tough, slipping only 3% from a year earlier. But insulated vans were off 53%, livestock vans were down 83%, and open-tops lost 61%.

Other types of trailers also lost ground. Tank shipments were down 30%, platforms slipped 27%, and lowbeds went lower - by 19%. Manufacturers shipped 704 dump trailers during July, down 39% from a year earlier.

Through the first seven months of 2000, manufacturers shipped an estimated 154,549 complete trailers, down 12% from the corresponding period of 1999. During the period, vans were off 13%, but tanks were virtually unchanged. Platforms were off 6%, lowbeds were running 3% ahead of last year's pace, and dump trailers were down 9%.

In addition to the complete trailers, manufacturers shipped an estimated 1,947 containers and container chassis (down 32% from a year earlier) and 263 dollies and converter gear (up 1% from July 1999).

Trucks Slow Down Trailer manufacturers were not the only ones experiencing a softening market in July. Truck sales also were down for almost every GVW class, according to figures compiled by Ward's Communications.

Class 1 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,000 pounds or less) had sales of 419,737 units in July, down 1% from a year ago. For the first seven months of 2000, however, sales remained 5% ahead of the 2,950,127 Class 1 trucks sold during the corresponding period of 1999.

Class 2 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,001 to 10,000 pounds) were off 12% in July but were up 6% for the first seven months.

Class 3 trucks (GVW ratings of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds) were down 15% in July, contributing to a 1% year-to-date decline. Dealers sold 8,800 Class 3 trucks during the month and 71,163 for the first seven months of 2000.

Class 4 trucks (GVW ratings of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds) lost 17% during July, driving sales into negative territory (-2%) for the year. Sales were 3,227 and 29,420 for the month and year, respectively.

Class 5 trucks (GVW ratings of 16,001 to 19,500 pounds) were down 7% in July and 5% for the first seven months of 2000.

Class 6 trucks (GVW ratings of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds) remained strong - up 14% in July and 38% for the year. Customers bought 4,798 Class 6 trucks in July and 34,908 during the first seven months of 2000.

Class 7 trucks (GVW ratings of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds) were off 12% for July and 3% year to date.

Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) fell 20% from 21,933 sold in July 1999. Sales year to date were off 7%.

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