ACT Research shows less trailer orders in April with production constraints

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Red Tractor Trailer
The State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report and Trailer Components report show the trailer trends of the industry and provide original equipment manufacturers build plans and market indicators.

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Preliminary reports from trailer original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) indicate that 14,400 new trailer orders were booked in April, which was 52% lower than March, but a staggering 3600% above the COVID-impacted volume for the same month last year, according to analysts at ACT Research.

“Given the dramatic market impact of COVID shutdowns that occurred at this point last year, year-over-year comparisons provide minimal insight. Year-to-date net order volume of just over 102,000 trailers, up 164% versus last year, gives us a better metric that indicates fleet equipment demand remains strong,” said Frank Maly, director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research for ACT Research. “Strong fleet commitments, pushing the average backlog for dry vans and reefers at recent production rates, are generating headwinds to further order placement.”

ACT Research also released this quarter’s issue of ACT Research’s Trailer Components Report, which showed trailer orders were preliminarily lower for April.

“Lower orders will be the result of dry van and reefer order boards that commit most OEMs through the remainder of this year and well into the next,” Maly said. “Additionally, cancellations increased in both March and April, with a mix of pricing reviews by OEMs of units on the order board, due to increased component and materials costs, appearing to be a driving force in those adjustments.”

ACT Research has increased trailer forecasts for nearly all trailer categories, with dry vans and reefers now projected to set new annual production records next year.

“The industry is rebounding from the COVID-generated market pressures of 2020, and extremely strong freight volumes and the resulting surge in fleet financials are providing the need for additional equipment and the ability for the CAPEX investment,” Maly noted. “That said, staffing is expected to be a major headwind during this market upturn, and component pricing increases are also pushing trailer prices upward. Ultimately, softer order volumes are expected through early summer, until trailer OEMs re-open their order books, after getting component supplies and pricing into place and increasing their staffing levels to support stronger production rates.”

Meanwhile, Maly said there was an upturn in cancellations during April, due to pricing, component and material cost pressures. Cancellations are also contributed to the reassessment by fleets to analyze equipment needs and projected delivery dates.

“OEMs continue to struggle to increase production rates, with components, materials, and staffing still challenging their efforts,” he said.

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