new trailer empty Photo: Josh Fisher/Fleet Owner

Trailer orders breaking records this summer

ACT and FTR both tracking record-breaking trailer sales as builders try to keep up with carriers, who are also ordering new trucks at a record pace.

Trailer orders set a record for July, according to two research firms, as some OEM's backlogs stretch into spring of 2019.

ACT Research's preliminary estimate for July 2018 net trailer orders was 29,300 units. Final July volume will be available later in August.

“After a steady June, fleets came roaring back into the market in July," said Frank Maly, ACT’s director of CV Transportation Analysis and Research. "OEMs had their strongest July net order volume in history, breaking a record that was set in 1994. Net orders were 102% better than last July and 45% above June volume. Considering July is, historically, the industry’s weakest order month, this performance is truly exceptional. Year-to-date, net orders of just over 200,000 trailers are up 30% from 2017,”.

ACT's methodology generates a preliminary estimate of the market that the group says should be within +/- 3% of the final order tally.

FTR has a lower estimate of 28,000 trailers for July 2018, which the group also said was a record. Trailer orders have now totaled 350,000 units for the past 12 months, according to FTR. Orders are up 109% year over year.

OEMs opened some of the 2019 order boards, so fleets have started ordering a couple months early to reserve build spots and lock in prices. Carriers expect to add more trucks in 2019, as is seen with record Class 8 truck sales, and will need additional trailers for them.

Freight growth continues to strain industry capacity. Refrigerated van orders were particularly strong, and dry van orders rebounded after a weak June.

“This is a terrific order number for a month of July. Usually July is the lowest order month of the year, but not this year. This indicates the trailer market should continue to be robust in 2019,”said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles.

“Strong economic and freight growth is expected to continue and, as a result, trailer production is at record levels," Ake added. "Orders should stay elevated as fleets continue to place orders earlier than normal for 2019.”

ACT's Maly noted that, when seasonally adjusted, July came in above 44,000 units, which would be the strongest monthly reading in industry history.

"That converts to a stunning 528,000 SAAR. Both dry vans and reefers paced overall performance, closing the month with backlogs that now stretch into March of next year," he said. "While strength was evident across all industry segments, it is noteworthy that cancellations remain low, indicating strong fleet confidence as we move through the rest of this year and into next.”

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