BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Net trailer orders for March were down 20% month-over-month but up 50% year-over-year according to FTR reports.
According to the freight forecaster, the drop off from February for both dry and refrigerated vans is due to the start of a typical seasonal decline for trailer orders, and the strong year over year comparison reflecting a positive trailer order environment. Softening backlogs are also consistent with normal market conditions; production for March was robust. Trailer orders have now totaled 246,000 units for the last twelve months.
“The trailer market had a great production month,” said Don Ake, FTR vice-president of commercial vehicles. “The OEMs finally started to increase build rates due to the strong orders of the past four months. Builds jumped an impressive 9% on a per day level over February. Production was basically equal to last March, which is a great sign moving into the seasonally strong second quarter.
“The additional good news is the trailer vocational segments are showing some signs of life. Flatbed production was up considerably, as were dump trailers. The tanker segments are also moving in the right direction. These vocational segments continue to track closely with Class 8 trucks, which are also on the upswing. Fleets are growing much more optimistic about the business environment and they are buying more trailers again after a slump the second half of last year.”
Frank Maly, ACT’s director of CV transportation analysis and research also commented, “Commitments have been delayed this order season, as fleets carefully monitored economic conditions and watched the political winds to determine their confidence regarding capital expenditures. Their shift from caution to a more optimistic outlook is evident when you consider net order volumes in each of the last four months has surpassed the same month of the prior year. While the 20% decline in net orders from February was a bit more than anticipated, March net orders were up a very solid 45% versus last year. The majority of that strength came from dry vans, which were roughly double last year’s level.
“The order season normally starts strong in late summer/early fall and closes the first quarter at a more moderate pace. This order cycle has proceeded in almost the opposite pattern. In fact, the longer-term perspective shows the total net orders booked from last September through March is now almost equal to the 2015/2016 order cycle volume.”