Refrigerated van orders exceeded expectations again.

Refrigerated van orders exceeded expectations again.

UPDATED -- U.S. trailer net orders for July were 20,400 units, 24% below the previous month but still a 13% improvement over a year ago, said FTR Associates, and the overall outlook remains strong. 

The month-over-month decline was particularly impacted by a drop in dry van orders following some large fleet orders placed in June, FTR said. Although lower, dry van orders in July were still good on a seasonal basis, and refrigerated van orders exceeded expectations again.

ACT Research, in reporting its take on the numbers, also noted that the majority of the month-to-month drop was because of the unusually strong dry van volume in June. “Dry vans and flatbeds drove most of the slight jump in cancellations that occurred in July, with the flatbed shift reported to be the response to dealers bringing their inventories more in line with current demand," said Frank Maly, Director–CV Transportation Analysis and Research at ACT. 

“We have indications that the market is peaking, but there is no evidence that it is going to drop significantly next year,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “It looks like a soft landing in general. However, certain trailer segments are being hard hit by the pullback in the energy industry and weaker manufacturing.”

"Our view that 2015 will be the best trailer market since the late 1990s remains unchanged.”

Certain trailer segments, such as flatbeds and tankers, are slowing, but refrigerated vans reached a high point in July and dump trailers remain robust. Production fell marginally for dry vans and more significantly for flatbed and dry tanks, Ake said. Liquid tank-trailer production remained steady.

ACT's Maly noted that some pressure in vocational trailers is likely over the next few months, as the full impact of the recent energy price declines is yet to be seen. He added, “Lower prices will continue to dampen exploration, as well as the accompanying equipment investment. Our view that 2015 will be the best trailer market since the late 1990s remains unchanged.”

U.S. trailer orders have now totaled 335,000 units over the past 12 months, FTR reported. Overall trailer build was down 1% versus June with variations by trailer segment. 

Updated 5:15 EDT 8/20/2015 to add ACT Research commentary.