Trailer orders in March fell to the lowest level since late 2016, according to reports from analysts at FTR and ACT Research.
Much like the truck market, trailer orders have tailed off in recent months. Last month’s orders fell by 35%, according to ACT Research, and are down as much as 50% year-over-year. FTR’s preliminary report shows that only 13,500 units were ordered in the month. Dry van orders were particularly low and vocational trailer orders are continuing to drop, according to FTR.
One of the issues is that after a frenzy of equipment ordering last year, OEMs are booked up through much of this year. With uncertainty surrounding materials and component pricing in 2020, trailer makers are reportedly unwilling to open up more build slots.
“It appears that the industry entered a bit of a holding pattern in March, as order volume declined significantly from both the previous month and this time last year,” said Frank Maly, ACT Research’s director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research, in a release. “Although current backlogs consume the majority of available build slots this year, particularly in the dry van and reefer segments, we continue to hear that OEMs are reluctant to fully open the 2020 order boards.”
With fewer orders, however, backlogs should begin to creep downward from record levels, and demand for new trailers still appears to be high.
“Backlogs had fallen little so far in 2019, and are at unreasonable levels,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “Fleets still need more trailers, based on the robust production, so demand has not changed in the short run. The weak orders are totally the result of the lack of available production openings. However, cancellations will continue to be a factor due to a large, fluid, backlog.”