ECONOMIC WATCH: Trailer orders fall precipitously

by Today's Trucking

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – U.S. trailer orders in March fell 54% from depressed February levels, to 6,500 units, according to preliminary data from FTR.

Orders were down 55% from March 2019, as the global Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on trailer manufacturers. Dry van orders were particularly weak, with fleets canceling orders that were spread over the remainder of the year.

FTR also reported flatbed orders were tepid, and reefer orders also declined, though not to the same extent.

“The trailer market is mirroring the Class 8 side, as fleets are extremely cautious due to the anxiety about the virus,” said Don Ake, FTR’s vice-president, commercial vehicles. “The orders placed in March are for units that are perceived to be absolutely necessary for relatively short-term needs. Fleets will also delay replacing older trailers until the economic situation stabilizes. Orders did exceed last June’s 5,600 total when some large fleets canceled dry van orders as the freight market cooled.

“It is expected there will be some over-capacity in the short-term due to the enormous number of new trailers that entered the market in the last three years. Some of those trailers will sit idle during this rough economic downturn. They will go back into service gradually as things recover. However, this will limit new trailer demand for a while. This is a severe wait-and-see situation with a potentially long wait period. Expect orders to track around the 10,000-unit mark for a few months as a result.”

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