ACT Research
Act Feb23 Backlog

Trailer builds increase, pushing backlogs down—a little

March 30, 2023
While some OEMs reported they are seeing cancellations, the cancel data is 'primarily' a reflection of spec changes and plant rewrites, ACT Research reports

Reflecting a higher trailer build rate, the backlog-to-build ratio contracted to 8.5 months in February, after closing January at 9.9 months, according to this month’s issue of ACT Research’s State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report. For context, the average since Q3’21 has been roughly eight months.

With most categories showing higher build in February, backlogs “slid slightly,” down 0.5% sequentially but up 23% year-over-year, noted Jennifer McNealy, director–CV Market Research & Publications at ACT Research. The dry van backlog was 0.4% lower from the previous month, with reefers down 0.6%, and flats nearly 4% lower.

“Despite OEMs expanding availability, 2023 is not yet fully open—partially because manufacturers are facing volatile commodity costs, long lead times for some input components, and improving but still challenging labor considerations; also because OEMs are reluctant to overpromise and underdeliver on both price and timing,” McNealy said. “Demand overall remains robust, but some OEMs shared this month that conversations of softening are happening. That said, the same manufacturers indicated the talk has not yet turned into slowing orders or cancellations.”

And while some other OEMs reported they are seeing a few actual cancellations, the cancel data is “primarily” a reflection of spec changes and plant rewrites, McNealy added.

“Some smaller fleets and owner operators have cancelled orders, but large fleets remain eager to fill the void,” McNealy said. “OEM conversations also continue to suggest supply-chain constraints are likely to remain a limiting factor to production in 2023, with manufacturers mentioning a renewed fluctuation in materials costs, particularly steel, and continuing long lead times of some components.”

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.