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Trailer orders in 'holding pattern' until 2022 slots open up

July 14, 2021
Analysts expect steady trailer demand throughout next year; however, FTR projects the actual demand for trailers 'will not be ascertainable' until supply chain problems dissipate

With preliminary trailer orders coming in at just over 11,000 units in June, the month-to-month growth exhibits strong improvement while the yearly comparisons are barely breaking even, according to data from both FTR Intel and ACT Research.

According to FTR, trailer order activity was constrained, as most OEMs are not taking additional orders for 2021 delivery. However, vocational trailer orders were steady, as there are still open build slots in those segments. The industrial sectors of the economy recovered slower than the consumer side, delaying the demand for flatbeds and tank trailers.

“The market is in a holding pattern until ordering for 2022 shipments begins,” Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles, commented. “Demand for trailers remains robust, as fleets attempt to move an increasing amount of freight during a shortage of Class 8 trucks. Fleet capacity is extremely tight. Trailer production is also constrained by supply chain disruptions and labor shortages.   

“Orders are expected to set records once the order boards for 2022 are opened,” Ake added. “Trailer demand is expected to be sturdy throughout next year. However, the actual demand for trailers will not be ascertainable until the supply chain problems dissipate. The production situation for early 2022 could be complicated if OEMs cannot build all the orders currently on the books in 2021.” 

According to ACT Research, trailer orders in June are 20% higher than last month, but 19% lower than June 2020.

“While the sequential increase in net orders was certainly welcome, a full response to actual fleet demand would have generated higher order volumes,” Frank Maly, director of CV transportation analysis and research at ACT Research, said. “Some OEMs, due to their extended backlogs, continue to be unwilling to book meaningful order volumes at this time.

“June’s negative year-over-year comparison for net orders was the first since May 2020, the tail-end of last spring’s COVID-depressed order activity,” Maly added. “These preliminary results point to a backlog that still extends into late Q1 of next year on average, with dry van and reefer backlogs extending into Q2 of 2022 at current production rates. While total production did improve last month, the gains came from additional days in the production schedule. Preliminary analysis indicates OEMs were not able to achieve any significant increase in build rates during the month, as headwinds from material and component supplies, as well as staffing challenges, continue.”

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