AFTER a 14-month absence, shipments of complete truck trailers were back above the 20,000 mark in March, according to preliminary figures published by the U S Bureau of Census.
Manufacturers shipped an estimated 20,854 complete trailers in March, the best month since November 1995 and the first time since December 1995 that the industry shipped more than 20,000 trailers in a single month.
Perhaps more significantly, it also was the first time since December 1995 that manufacturers were able to ship more trailers than they did during the corresponding month a year earlier. Industry output in March was 13% more than the 18,521 complete trailers shipped in March 1996-the largest margin in almost two years.
March was a strong month for a wide range of trailers. Categories exceeding the 13% industrywide increase for March included insulated vans, up 29% compared with March 1996; livestock vans, up 144%; bulk commodity trailers, up 200%; platforms, up 31%, and lowbeds, up 25%.
With the first quarter of 1997 now history, trailer manufacturers were on a pace roughly equal to that of last year. The 57,207 trailers shipped during the first three months were down 2% from the first quarter of 1996.
While complete trailers were up in March, the incomplete segment was off sharply. The industry shipped an estimated 1,634 containers and container chassis, down 36% from March 1996. However, utilization of intermodal equipment was brisk in early 1997, according to figures published by the Association of American Railroads. During the first 17 weeks of 1997, railroads carried 1,081,006 trailers (up 4.1% from the corresponding period of 1996) and 1,637,837 containers (up 7.5%). The combined volume of trailers and containers on U S railroads was up 6.1% compared with the first 17 weeks of 1996.
Truck Dealers Sell More Retail truck sales were strong in March. The 606,545 trucks sold during the month were 23% more than February and 6% higher than March 1996, according to figures compiled by the American Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Class 1 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,000 pounds or less) were up 8% in March, with sales of 411,026 vehicles. Through the first three months of the 1997, dealers sold 1,064,616 Class 1 trucks, up 5% from the first quarter of 1996.
Class 2 trucks (GVW ratings of 6,001 to 10,000 pounds) edged down 1% from March 1996 and were off 8% for the year. Dealers sold 156,753 Class 2 trucks during the month and 400,318 in the first quarter.
Class 3 trucks (GVW ratings of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds) continued to be hot-selling products. The 5,790 Class 3 trucks sold in March were 40% more than were sold a year earlier. The year-to-date sales of 14,334 were up 34% from the first quarter of 1996.
Class 4 trucks (GVW ratings of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds) slipped 2% in March and were off 10% year-to-date. Dealers sold 5,307 Class 4 trucks during the month and 12,903 during the first three months of 1997.
Class 6 trucks (GVW ratings of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds) were down 12% compared with March 1996 and trailed the first quarter of 1996 by 5%. Customers bought 1,606 Class 6 trucks in March 1997 and 4,562 through the first quarter of 1997.
Class 7 trucks (GVW ratings of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds) were the bright spot among commercial trucks. The 10,242 Class 7 trucks sold during March were 14% more than the number sold a year earlier. Through the first three months of 1997, dealers sold 25,743 Class 7 trucks, a 2% increase.
Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) were in relatively stable demand. The 14,979 Class 8 trucks sold during March were 2% below year-earlier levels. Through the first quarter of 1997, customers bought 38,802 Class 8 trucks, down 6% from the corresponding period of 1996.