Preliminary reports from trailer OEMs indicate that 14,400 new trailer orders were booked in April, which was 52% lower than March but a staggering 3600% above the dramatically COVID-impacted volume for the same month last year, according to ACT Research’s State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report, which provides a monthly review of the current US trailer market statistics.
“Given the dramatic market impact of COVID shutdowns that occurred at this point last year, year-over-year comparisons provide minimal insight,” said Frank Maly, Director CV Transportation Analysis and Research at ACT Research.
On the other hand, Maly notes that year-to-date net order volume of just over 102,000 trailers, up 164% versus last year, provides a better metric that indicates fleet equipment demand "remains strong."
“Strong fleet commitments, pushing the average backlog for dry vans and reefers into Q2’22 at recent production rates, are generating headwinds to further order placement,” he said. “Perhaps that should be better phrased as ‘further order acceptance,’ since some OEMs have indicated that they are not accepting orders until longer-term component and materials supplies and pricing can be determined,”
ACT Research also reports “a bit of an upturn” in order cancellations during April.
“Some re-visiting of pricing, the result of component and material cost pressures, along with some reassessment by fleets regarding projected delivery dates and their actual equipment needs, were likely both contributors to those adjustments,” Maly said. “Finally, OEMs continue to struggle to increase production rates, with components, materials, and staffing still challenging their efforts.”
The ACT Research analysis goes even deeper with the U.S. New Trailer Components and Materials Forecast . The firm has increased trailer forecasts for nearly all trailer categories, with dry vans and reefers now projected to set new annual production records next year, Maly noted.
“The industry is rebounding from the COVID-generated market pressures of 2020, and extremely strong freight volumes and the resulting surge in fleet financials are providing the need for additional equipment and the ability for the CAPEX investment," he said. “Ultimately, softer order volumes are expected through early summer, until trailer OEMs re-open their order books, after getting component supplies and pricing into place and increasing their staffing levels to support stronger production rates.”