U.S. net trailer orders showed marked improvement in October, according to recently released reports from ACT Research and FTR. According to FTR’s data, which does not account for cancellations, October orders set an all-time record at 56,500 units, up 9% month over month. ACT’s more conservative figure, 54,200 units accounting for cancellations (up 6% month over month), set the month’s orders as the third highest in history. Both ACT and FTR showed a 68% year-over-year increase.
“Fleet commitments over the past two months have now pushed industry backlog to the highest level since June of last year,” said Frank Maly, director of commercial-vehicle transportation, research and analysis for ACT. “Increases in both freight volumes and rates, along with capacity challenges, have influenced fleets to aggressively enter the market.”
Maly also noted that current production rates would result in industry backlogs until July 2021.
“Expect OEMs to adjust build rates upward to take advantage of this positive shift in fleet investment,” he said.
According to FTRs figures, trailer orders for the past 12 months now equal 249,500 units, with fleets ordering large quantities of dry and refrigerated vans, most for delivery during the second half of 2021.
“This is a repeat of 2018 when fleets placed huge orders in September-October to reserve build slots in 2019,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR. “Then, it was because the hot demand was outstripping OEM and supplier capacity. Now, it’s because the pandemic has disrupted the supply chain and some essential components are having trouble making it through the pipeline fast enough. We would expect these bottlenecks to be resolved over the next few months, resulting in some of the large orders of the last two months being canceled or pushed out next summer as happened in 2019.”
Ake also pointed to risks to the industry posed by the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
“The industry powered right through the summer despite rising infections. There is strong positive momentum right now, but it remains to be seen if possible new health restrictions will slow down the growth of freight,” he said.