Fleets Use Profits to Boost April Trailer Orders

May 18, 2016

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Trailer orders increased in the month of April, gaining 15% over the previous month thanks to the dry van and refrigerated trailer markets, according to the latest numbers from FTR and ACT Research.

Total trailer orders for the month hit 15,800 units, which is down 12% compared with last April, according to FTR. ACT Research released a preliminary estimate of 17,200 trailer orders using different metrics, but the percentage gain month-to-month was similar. For the past 12 months, there have been 289,000 units and backlogs are now down 7% year-over-year.

“The trailer market is slowly moderating and beginning a transition period,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “Orders have been weak for two consecutive months, and the start of the traditional summer order slump is still two months away.”

The slump is usually due to manufacturers taking orders for the next year starting in August or September. However, last year’s demand was so strong that OEMs opened their order books as early as June, according to Stifel Transportation and Logistics Research Group.

“Dry vans and refrigerated vans continue to sustain the trailer market,” said Ake. “Fleets are profitable, and they are using some of these profits to replace units that were not able to be replaced during the Great Recession.”

Dry van and refrigerated trailers made up the bulk of orders. Dry van orders rebounded in April after slipping in March, but were still at the second lowest total for the year. Refrigerated van orders were down from the previous month and at the lowest point since 2013.

Flatbed orders were similar to March while liquid tank and dump trailer activity was weak in April. Trailer build daily rates showed little change and have remained steady so far this year.

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