September trailers orders shattered the previous record, reaching 56,000 units, according to preliminary numbers reported by FTR and ACT. That tops the previous high from October 2014 by over 10,000 trailers.
Orders continue to exceed expectations, FTR reported, with September units 59% higher than August and up 133% year over year. Trailer orders for the past 12 months have now exceeded 400,000 units.
The trailer makers opened up their order boards for the remainder of 2019, and fleets responded with many large orders. Most of the order increase was in dry vans, but refrigerated van orders were healthy, as were flatbeds. There are still concerns about future raw material costs and component availability, but this did not hinder the fleets from ordering in huge numbers for future deliveries.
“The fleets have ordered an enormous amount of Class 8 trucks for 2019 and now are ordering the trailers to go with them,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “They want to reserve build slots throughout next year, so they can have equipment ready for what is anticipated to remain a vibrant freight market. This is the equivalent of tickets going on sale for a wildly popular concert and quickly selling out. Some dry van OEMs are largely booked up for 2019.”
Year-to-date, fleets have ordered over 295,000 trailers, said ACT Research, more than 50% better than last year. While dry vans continue to post solid unit and percentage gains, both sequentially and year over year, preliminary results indicate that flatbeds posted the best month-over-month percentage improvement in September, ACT said.
Frank Maly, ACT's director of commercial vehicle transportation, analysis and research, pointed out that order strength was widespread, with nine of the 10 trailer categories in the black on a year-over-year basis, with "grain trailers, the sole outlier, missing a positive result by less than a percentage point. Year-to-date performance was nearly identical to the year-over-year results, an indication of both consistent and longer-term industry-wide strength.”