May Trailer Orders Drop 26%; Backlog Remains High

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Trailer orders declined 26% year-over-year in May, but order boards and backlogs remained high, with continued strong demand from fleets, ACT Research Co. reported.

Net orders were 16,200, down from almost 22,000 a year ago and 18,000 in April, ACT said. May marked the fourth month of consecutive year-over-year declines.

“We’re not looking at a decline in demand,” ACT’s Frank Maly said. “Order boards remain robust, and the backlog is up 34% year-over-year.”

The May backlog was at 162,000, down from 171,000 in April, according to ACT figures.

Maly said the normal spring-summer lull came a little earlier this year, and dry vans and refrigerated trailers accounted for about 10,500 of May’s orders.

Of that, vans accounted for 7,400 units — with orders down 40% but backlog up 30%  — while reefer orders “were off just a few percentage points,” at about 3,100, Maly said.

Another group, FTR, also reported a downturn in May trailer orders, which it pegged at 15,200 units, or a 29% year-over-year decline.

While there is “still plenty of backlog available to support strong build rates through the end of the year,” backlogs have slipped about 15% since January’s peak, FTR said.

“The market has peaked in terms of orders and backlog and has started to moderate,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles. “This is to be expected, and conditions appear to be very normal.”