August Trailer Orders Fall 35% to 11,500 Units
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U.S. trailer orders continued to experience year-over-year declines in August, but did post a second straight month of sequential improvements, according to ACT Research.
Preliminary data for the month show orders decreased 35% year-over-year to 11,500 units from 17,700, but rose by 15% sequentially compared with the prior month’s preliminary total of 10,000 units. August tends to be one of the weakest order months, which can boost the seasonally adjusted order number because those adjustments aim to remove the influences of predictable seasonal patterns.
“With still high backlogs, 2024 order boards only minimally open and August as a traditionally weak order month, it remains too soon for robust expectations,” said Jennifer McNealy, director of commercial vehicle market research and publications at ACT Research.
ACT data have shown year-over-year declines every month this year, after a year that closed out with the second-highest order levels on record.
“The data continue to provide mixed messages with cancellations remaining elevated, driven primarily by the dry van and flatbed segments, even as backlogs remain at healthy levels,” McNealy said. “Demand may be softening, but it’s not gone. The next few months should provide more illumination on the 2024 outlook as orders move from the current negotiation stage into booked business.”
McNealy pointed out that the backlog-to-build ratio was north of six months in aggregate in July, and noted that some specialty segments had no available build slots until the beginning of 2025. Preliminary data show the trailer backlog decreased by 21,700 to around 135,600 units.
“We’re getting more into normal times, whereas the larger fleets will order their trailers for first and second quarter at this point,” said David Giesen, vice president of sales at Stoughton Trailers. “So, it’s pretty typical for a normal year. With that said, things have slowed down significantly year-over-year. We had just demand through the roof last year.”
Giesen noted that ordering schedules are now looking more like a typical year, after a two-year stretch in which orders were pushed back much earlier because of the backlogs.
[September U.S. Trailer Preliminary Update] - Preliminary net trailer orders remain seasonally soft.
Get the update - https://t.co/Hh7ZZ4ioe6#Trailers, #Transportation, #truck, #trucking, #ACT, #ACTResearch pic.twitter.com/32sKi0PfwV — ACT Research (@actresearch) September 19, 2023
“There’s still a softness from, especially, the little and midsized players because freight volumes are lower, freight rates are lower, so they’re not as eager to order trailers,” Giesen said. “But the big fleets with replacements still want to get significant orders in.”
Giesen expects that level of demand for trailers to continue, despite the softer freight market, until backlogs are back to normal.
“We expected lower numbers from ACT as Great Dane didn’t open the books for new quotes until the last week of August,” said Chris Hammond, executive vice president of sales at Great Dane. “Since that time, we’ve slowly seen weekly increases in order intake. Some segments continue to outperform, while others are more affected by the slowness in freight. I suspect orders to be much higher in the September report for Great Dane and others.”
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