Trailer market finishes 2020 on strong note

by Today's Trucking

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 net trailer orders finished the year 40% stronger than in 2019, according to industry analyst ACT Research.

U.S. trailer manufacturers took 42,500 net orders in December, according to preliminary data from ACT, finishing the year 40% stronger than 2019 with 288,000 orders.

December orders were up 7% from November, and 140% better than December 2019.

“December activity closes a tumultuous year on a very solid up note. As has been the story throughout recent months, dry van demand continued to drive the market. While October and November were the best two dry van order months in history, final stats will likely show December not far behind, ranking fifth best,” said Frank Maly, director commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research at ACT Research.

“After rushing to the sidelines in the spring, fleets surged back into the market as the year proceeded, reacting to capacity challenges as well as higher freight rates. Those factors drove a dramatic shift in the short-to-medium term outlook for fleets, driving them to make aggressive investment commitments in the latter part of the year.”

The industry backlog is at more than 200,000 trailers, meaning many OEMs will be fully committed through 2021 production slots.

FTR, meanwhile, reported that preliminary U.S. net trailer orders totaled 41,700 units in December, finishing the highest ever fourth quarter order volume.

Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles, said, “This is another great month for trailer orders. The last four months are very similar to the order surge in August-November 2018. These orders have boosted the backlogs after hitting a low point in July during the throes of the pandemic. Orders should begin falling in January if the 2019 trend repeats. However, there are enough orders in the backlog for a healthy production year.

“Fleet optimism continues to gain momentum. Freight volumes are healthy and growing while the industry is still scrambling to handle the economic restart. The growth should continue as people get vaccinated and employment rises. I also expect manufacturing activity to intensify soon. This will lift industrial-oriented freight.”

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