April Trailer Orders Down 49% Year-Over-Year
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U.S. trailer orders dropped by nearly half from the year-ago total to an estimated 10,000 units in April, ACT Research reported.
Preliminary data show orders decreased 49% year-over-year from 19,614, according to ACT. They also fell 40.5% sequentially, with the prior month hitting 16,800 units. Every month has experienced a year-over-year decline since closing out last year at the second-highest level on record.
“Seasonal expectations called for orders to pull back in April, particularly given the near record-level order backlogs and supply chain challenges being experienced by the industry,” said Jennifer McNealy, ACT’s director of commercial vehicle market research. “Demand appears to be softening, albeit against strong comparisons. That said, backlogs remain robust.”
McNealy added the industry still is wrestling with lingering supply chain challenges. But she also noted signs of improvement are seen monthly while fleets needing trailers remain in queue for orders already placed. She pointed out backlogs for most trailer categories remain near the top of their target ranges.
“Using preliminary April orders and the corresponding OEM build plans from the April State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report [March data] for guidance, the trailer backlog should decrease by around 16,500 units to about 213,000 units when complete April data are released,” McNealy said. “That said, with orders being preliminary and the build number a projection, there will be some variability in reported backlogs when final data are collected.”
Stoughton Trailers, based in Stoughton, Wis., has more recently begun to see the market normalize after two years of exceptionally high demand. But its backlogs remain strong through the rest of the year.
“It’s really pretty much the same as last month from demand and order intake and all of the feedback we’re getting from the market,” Stoughton Vice President of Sales David Giesen said. “We have a very strong backlog, especially looking at historical trends. A very good backlog. We’re practically filled for the year, which you’ll probably hear from most people.”
Giesen noted that demand still exceeds what his business is able to sell despite signs of softening. He noted the market is getting closer to a normal situation in which supply meets demand, but he can’t be sure exactly when that will happen.
“Order intake is acting more like normal with the seasonal slowdown in ordering as customers begin planning for 2024 purchases,” said Chris Hammond, executive vice president of sales at Great Dane. “While orders are slower this month, backlogs are still extended with some customer segments into 2024.”
Hammond noted orders flow will continue over the next couple of months. But he doesn’t expect them to outpace production until the market hits the normal order cycle later in the year. He noted for some segments that will be around July and August, while for others it will be September and October.
April’s preliminary net trailer orders decreased sequentially, and were lower against longer-term comparisons, with 10,000 units (11,900 seasonally adjusted) projected to have been booked during the month. https://t.co/oCEM3TTrup#Trailers, #ACTResearch pic.twitter.com/9AHjVIGmZu — ACT Research (@actresearch) May 17, 2023
“All in all, 2023 will end up being a strong year for trailer and truck-body builders,” Hammond said. “As we enter 2024, we think flats and reefers stay strong and expect some van segments to slow down. Telematics demand has really surged as we’ve gone standard on FleetPulse at Great Dane.
“We are seeing a lot of new activations as customers get their FleetPulse-enabled trailers into their fleets. We expect this growth to continue for the foreseeable future.”
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