ACT Research

Trailer orders close 2023 with slight monthly rise; ACT Research

Jan. 26, 2024
December’s backlog-to-build ratio was squeezed by a stronger build rate offset by only a slight uptick in backlog, says ACT's McNealy

As carrier profits and equipment demand wait for the cycle to turn upward, 2024 is more about “hoping and coping” than continued boom times for the trailer market, according to this month’s issue of ACT Research’s State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report.

December net orders, at 24,300 units, were nearly 58% lower year-over-year, but 3,300 units more than were booked in November.

“With 35% of the year’s orders historically booked in Q4, the quarter’s seasonal factors run roughshod on the nominal data. Seasonally adjusted, December’s orders fall to 17,200 units,” said Jennifer McNealy, director–cv market research and publications at ACT Research. “Dry van orders contracted 87% y/y, with reefers down 56%, and flats 75% lower compared to December 2022.”

Total cancellations increased to 1.7% of the backlog from November’s 0.9%, elevated for most segments and much higher for some, she added. Several markets were again above 1.0%, including dry vans at 1.3%, flats at 3.5%, medium lowbeds at 1.5%, and dumps at 1.3%. Both tank categories reported a spike in cancellations, both around 7% of the backlog. Recent oil price weakness may bear some culpability.

“December’s backlog-to-build ratio was squeezed by a stronger build rate offset by only a slight uptick in backlog,” McNealy said. “This combination of events resulted in a lower 2023-ending backlog-to-build ratio, at 5.3 months now versus the 5.8 months in November.”

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.

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