[Editor's note: TBB is working with ACT Research to compile 2023 production numbers for the annual Trailer Output Report. In the coming days trailer manufacturers should expect email with a reporting form and contact information for sharing commentary with TBB staff on last year's results and expectations for the year to come.]
December’s preliminary net trailer orders increased “nominally” from November to 24,300 units but were down nearly 58% compared to December the year before, according to ACT Research’s preliminary monthly report. Additionally, seasonal adjustment for peak order season lowers December’s tally to 17,200 units, ACT Research noted. Final December results will be available later this month.
“While orders were down materially from year-ago levels, preliminary net orders, at 17,200 seasonally adjusted, were about 10% higher sequentially,” said Jennifer McNealy, director–CV market research and publications at ACT Research. “After a disappointing, although not unexpected, drop last month, December’s preliminary net orders aligned with less-than-stellar expectations, particularly amid a backdrop of weak profitability for truckers and anecdotal commentary from trailer manufacturers who have shared that orders are coming but at a slower pace than they have the last few years.”
December’s results support the ACT Research thesis that when fleets don’t make money, their ability and/or willingness to purchase equipment is muted, McNealy suggested. Other indicators to watch closely include cancellations, which “oscillated above comfortable levels” for most segments in December, and the backlog-to-build ratio, which in aggregate is weakening, now around five months.
However, some specialty segments have no available build slots until late in 2024 at the earliest, while others are in the three-month range, she pointed out.
“The lower orders don’t indicate a catastrophic year in the offing either, simply the slowest December we’ve seen since before the pandemic began,” she said.
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.