August trailer orders give industry “positive momentum”

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Trailer orders for August jumped 49 percent to 28,700 units compared with July, the strongest activity since last October, according to FTR. ACT Research reports August orders of 27,500.

August orders were 174 percent above the same month during the previous year, with trailer orders for the last 12 months now totaling 191,000 units, FTR reports.

FTR describes dry van orders as “particularly robust,” with refrigerated vans also displaying strength. Flatbed orders improved from July but remain sluggish as industrial freight continues to lag consumer freight. Backlogs are expected to rise to near pre-pandemic levels.

August orders were much higher than expected and an indication the industry is making a surprisingly quick recovery from the pandemic, says Don Ake, FTR vice president, commercial vehicles.

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“Backlogs should rise back to where they were in March and the new orders solidify van production for most OEMs through this year. The strong August orders provide the industry with positive momentum for when fleets soon begin ordering for 2021,” Ake says.

“There was significant pent-up demand for van trailers coming out of the economic shutdowns. Now fleets are feeling much more confident about the freight markets and ordering trailers they would have booked in April or May, under normal conditions,” he says. “There was also pent-up demand at the dealer level, with some dealers reporting record sales volumes for July and August, which are traditionally the slowest months of the year. Dealers now are placing restocking orders much sooner than expected.”

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ACT reports August’s trailer total was more than 150 percent better than the same period last year and, before accounting for cancellations, new orders approached the 29,000 mark.

“The industry continues to improve from meager COVID-induced Q2 volumes. Discussions indicate that large fleet orders are the driving factor in recent market improvements. After very weak expectations in late spring, fleets have switched to a much more optimistic tone, supported by both improved freight volumes and rates,” says Frank Maly, ACT director, commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research.

“OEMs have adjusted their operations in response. As a result, some fleets could be becoming concerned about the timing and availability of trailers in the new year, making CAPEX commitments as a result. At current production rates, the industry orderboard extends into the middle of [the first quarter of 2021],” Maly says.

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