Net U.S. trailer orders for January hit 17,900 units, down 30% from the month before and down 37% year-over-year, according to the latest numbers from FTR.
Despite the precipitous drop in orders, January numbers were in line with FTR’s expectations for a falloff after four consecutive months of strong trailer orders. Most large fleets have already ordered what they needed for the first part of 2016, according to FTR, leaving few build slots open.
Low dry-van trailer orders were a major factor in the decline, which hit their lowest point since May 2015. Flatbed orders were also weak but refrigerated van orders were okay, gaining 33% from the prior month.
“Normally this would be a poor order month for January, but these are far from normal circumstances,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “Orders averaged over 33,000 for the previous four months, so a pullback of this magnitude was totally expected.”
Trailer build was actually up compared to the previous month with a 3% increase, impacted primarily by an improvement in dry van production.
Most of the other trailer segments posted declines in production in the same period of time.The tank trailer segment has remained weak while dump trailers have maintained a steady level.
Trailer production is expected to outpace truck production for the first few months of this year, according to FTR.
“Production this January was the same as January 2015,” said Ake. “However, last year the market was on the upswing, and this year it is cooling off somewhat.”