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Trailers order close out 2022 with 'astounding surge'

Jan. 23, 2023
With bookings setting an all-time record in December, and backlogs at their highest level in nearly two years, 2023 is starting on 'solid footing' despite uncertainty over the broader economy, industry analysts suggest

U.S. trailer orders set an all-time record in December (or came close to it, depending on which industry research firm one subscribes to).

FTR reported that net orders hit a new monthly record of 56,949 units, which barely eclipsed the previous record set in October 2020. Order activity for the month was up an “astounding” 121% versus December 2021, FTR noted.

Backlog levels returned above 200,000 units, with an increase of another 17% with the surge in orders. December build was down another 8% from the previous month but was up 17% from the 2021 total. Build output was on the “low end of the range” of recent activity, but adjusting for holiday downtime would eliminate most of the gap, the report added. Lower build and a jump in end-of-year factory shipments caused the inventory levels to drop by 18% from November.

“The surge in orders is unlikely to be sustained going forward, and we have already seen strong moderation in Class 8 orders,” Jonathan Starks, FTR's CEO and chief intelligence officer, said. “However, we have now seen more than 347,000 orders placed over the last 12 months, and backlogs are at their highest level in nearly two years. 2023 is starting on solid footing even as the macro uncertainty remains extremely elevated.”

ACT Research, meanwhile, tallied 57,300 net US trailer orders in December, nearly 46% higher compared to November and 115% above December 2021, according to this month’s issue of ACT Research’s State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report.

“Discussions in the last 30 days continue to indicate 2023 is not yet fully open, despite OEMs expanding availability. Supply-chain concerns still linger, with some manufacturers sharing that the situation for some parts has actually deteriorated and they see no short-term improvement in sight,” said Jennifer McNealy, director–CV Market Research & Publications at ACT Research. “Regarding demand, most trailer makers continue to see demand exceeding capacity through the end of 2023; although, some have mentioned an erosion in confidence, but are also quick to note that this hasn’t appeared in the form of cancellations.

“At 57,300 net orders, December 2022 was the second highest month since we started keeping track in 1996. From this standpoint, 2022 went out like a lion.”

For the year, ACT Research reported 361,500 net orders placed, exceeding the previous year’s 249,400 level. Approximately 306,000 trailers were built in 2022, and McNealy anticipated a continuation of that upward trend into 2023.

ACT Research’s State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report provides a monthly review of the current US trailer market statistics, as well as trailer OEM build plans and market indicators divided by all major trailer types, including backlogs, build, inventory, new orders, cancellations, net orders, and factory shipments.

About the Author

Kevin Jones | Editor