President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum have not raised prices of trucks and trailers as much as anticipated, but there are exceptions: As of the end of September, dump bodies were up 11.5% over the same period in 2017, and light-duty trailer prices rose 9.1%. That according to Steve Latin-Kasper, director of market research for the National Truck Equipment Association.
“Dump body prices rising faster than other truck body prices (which rose from 0.2% to 1.4%, depending on type) can be attributed to the fact that by weight, dump bodies have more steel than other body types,” he wrote in December’s NTEA News. “Therefore, steel accounts for a greater percentage of dump-body bill-of-materials totals, which means the 25% tariff on steel had a greater impact on pricing.”
Some light-duty trailers (defined as under 10,000 pounds per axle in capacity) also use more steel in proportion to other materials, which helps explain their rises, Latin-Kasper said. By contrast, aluminum sides and wood floors commonly comprise a large percentage of the materials in van-type truck bodies, which rose only 3.2%. In them, steel is used for underbody frames and sometimes wheels, so amounts to a smaller percentage, especially in long trailers.
Meanwhile, published reports say that U.S. steel producers raised their prices as much as 50% since the tariffs went into effect. They could do this because lower-priced foreign steel, including that from Canada and other friendly countries, became more costly, taking pressure off Americans and giving them the freedom to hike prices. (Is that greed or simply smart business?)
That’s the bad news. The good news is that several steel mills in the Midwest reopened as a result of the tariffs, putting hundreds of Americans back to work.
More good news, unless you happen to be in the commodities business, is that the rate of growth in hot-rolled steel prices have been moderating, he reported. That contributed to smaller price increases for most types of truck bodies and trailers.
Now, I can personally attest to the tariffs’ effects on steel. The other day a crew arrived to install my new car lift. It now resides in the garage I had built extra tall to accommodate a vehicle hoisted into the air. Yes, it’s an extravagance, but I’ve wanted one for years, even though I’m no mechanic.
And, as I’ve gotten older, it’s become more difficult for me to get down on a concrete floor, slide under my jacked-up Chevy Corvair, as I did a few weeks ago to change its engine oil. And it’s even harder to get back up. I think I inherited my Grandpa Billy Berg’s arthritic knees (the old guy could barely walk as he got into his 80s).
My new 8,000-pound-capacity Titan lift was made in Hanjiin, China. I grit my teeth when I write that because I really wanted to "Buy American." But I priced a Backyard Buddy, made in Warren, Ohio, and it was twice as much. I'm sure it's a superior product and I’d have popped for the extra dough if I were going to use the lift every day, but I won’t, even if I intend to use it for my my other two cars, as well. Money talks.
The Titan cost about $3,120, delivered and installed. It would’ve been about $2,900, the dealer said, but the tariff pumped up his prices last summer. Excuse me now while I send an invoice to Mr. Trump for 200 bucks.