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Trailer orders remained robust in February

February order levels set an industry record, according to analysts.

Trailer orders for the month of February were off the charts, with the market “red-hot” according to one analyst, with the industry’s order-board up more than 20% above this point in 2017.

Preliminary trailer order figures for February from ACT Research hover around 33,000 units, while research firm FTR Transportation Intelligence pegged its preliminary estimate 32,000 units.

“Fleets continue to place orders at a record pace, as last month was the strongest February order volume in industry history,” noted Frank Maly, ACT’s director of CV transportation analysis and research, in a statement.

“That follows a record-setting string of months that started last fall. February’s all-time high also follows the strongest January in industry history,” he added. “The supporting story continues to be tight trucking capacity and the resulting strong freight rates, driving fleet equipment needs and purchase ability. Industry backlogs now stretch through September on average, with dry van and reefers averaging lead times that stretch into the fourth quarter. That lengthy timeline also helps encourage fleets to join the order queue."

While February net orders were off 17% from January, Maly said “sequential softening” in orders “is expected” as the end of the industry’s traditional order season approaches.

“Through the first two months of the year, net orders are 24% above last year, with the industry’s order-board more than 20% above this point last year,” he noted.

FTR said its preliminary February trailer order figure is at 32,000 units, 24% above a year ago, and while that is down 20% month-over-month, February activity was the fifth consecutive month that trailer orders exceeded 30,000 units, said Don Ake, the firm’s vice president of commercial vehicles

“If the preliminary numbers hold, it will be a record February for trailer orders,” he explained in a statement, with orders dropping from the “huge volumes” of the past three months yet remaining “historically high.” Backlogs should rise above 170,000 units for the first time since early in 2016 as well, Ake said.

“The trailer market remains red-hot,” he stressed. “Fleets are scrambling to add capacity and are ordering large numbers of trucks and trailers. Most of these orders are for the second half of the year. This is good news for the economy and the industry in that carriers expect the solid freight demand to last throughout 2018. The economy is vibrant and producing freight growth across all sectors, which is boosting all segments of trailers and resulting in record order months.”

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