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Trailer manufacturers: Can’t build them fast enough

Sept. 12, 2014

Trailer manufacturing is booming, and could be even better were it not for a shortage of qualified production workers.

According to FTR, manufacturers should produce 264,000 trailers in 2014, the best year since 2006. 

 “The trailer market in 2014 is very strong,” says Don Ake, FTR’s vice-president of commercial vehicles.   He attributed the strength to both fleet expansion and pent-up demand dating back the the last recession.

Among the stats that Ake cites:

• Net orders over the last 12 months have reached 284,000 units

• Backlogs reached 112,000 trailers in July—up 47% from July 2013

Looking to 2015, Ake says that the industry should be down slightly from this year’s peak.  Historical, the trailer industry follows a five-year cycle, and 2014 is the fifth year of the cycle.  However, continued strong demand and a manufacturing capacity crunch could stretch the current cycle out further.  He thinks it is possible that 10,000 trailers could be built next year that would have been produced this year if manufacturers had had the capacity.

 “Based on the strength of the current demand, trailer makers should be building more than what they are,” Ake says. “But manufactures are having trouble adding capacity. This is especially the case with tank builders, as they require the most specialized workers.

Even so, FTR expects U S truck trailer manufacturers will produce 248,000 units in 2015, down 6%.  Total North American production, including trailer built in Canada and Mexico, with be 274,000 units).

Here is how next year looks by major trailer category:

Dry vans--144,000, down 5.0%

Reefers--37,500, down 5.0%

Flatbed--23,500, down 5.0%

Dumps--9,000, down 13%

Liquid tank--8,100, down 4.0%

Dry tank--3,000, down 17%