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December 16, 2021 12:15 PM, EST

November Trailer Orders Near Year’s Best

Stoughton worker A worker with a trailer on the production line. (Stoughton Trailers)

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U.S. trailer orders surged in November to 31,000, down from 39,645 a year earlier, ACT Research reported, citing manufacturers’ initial data that will be finalized soon.

The November orders, once revised, will either be the year’s new high or second-best total, according to ACT, which noted January’s 31,340 orders currently lead — January and November are the only two months where orders have topped 30,000 this year.

FTR pegged preliminary net orders at 32,000.

“November will be the second month this year where backlog actually goes up rather than down,” Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR, told Transport Topics.

Demand hasn’t fully shown up, he added, “but it will in 2022 as everyone gets more confident about the supply chain.”

At the same time, some trailer makers are expanding capacity, said Frank Maly, ACT’s director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis.

Great Dane is adding capacity for production and staging space in Pennsylvania.

Wabash is adding dry van capacity of up to 10,000 units or better by 2023 at a site in Minnesota, and will build out added capacity for molded structural composite panels for truck body and reefer vans through 2024.

On Dec. 16, Wabash announced it expects to begin production of a new walk-in cargo van by the end of 2022, after validation and testing with key pilot customers. The company noted it is developing the concept and design in collaboration with engineering services provider EDAG Group to create a next-generation design for a walk-in van.

“You have people out there making investments,” Maly said.

Also, Mexico City-based Fruehauf opened a dry van plant in Kentucky, he said. Fruehauf makes dry vans, flatbeds, tanks and dumps in Mexico for the domestic market there.

Great Dane trailer plant

Trailers in production at Great Dane manufacturing facility. (Great Dane)

“I think they have a pretty good position in their market,” Maly said, calling its return to the U.S. “kind of amazing.” The company, when it was based in the U.S., is credited with creating the semi-trailer in 1914.

At Stoughton Trailers, November was a case of writing the orders for customers after sitting on those commitments for quite some time, said David Giesen, vice president of sales.

“All the woes of the supply chain still exist, and this does not mean we will produce more, just making the orders visible for processing,” he said.

Labor has improved compared with a few months ago, but it is still not where Stoughton would like it to be, he added. Pricing also seems to have more stability.

Giesen said Stoughton would likely see another spurt in Q1 “as we go through this exercise again of booking business that has been hanging in queue for a long time.”

Chris Hammond, executive vice president of sales for Great Dane, said monthly reporting of orders isn’t representative of demand. “Rather, it is representative of manufacturers putting orders formally in the backlog as they manage the continued issues in supply chain with costs and other issues,” he said.

“We have a backlog that is committed, but we have not placed all orders for the year as we can only see so far out with what is happening on the labor and supply front. So we are managing our backlog on a monthly basis,” he added.

Sean Kenney, chief sales officer at Hyundai Translead, said order volumes similar to November’s will likely continue for the next few months as trailer makers continue to fill out their planned capacity into 2022. Hyundai Translead’s order books are “currently open for all channels and products.”

Ake said he expected a very good flatbed order once the manufacturers supply the final adjusted data.

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“The flatbed trailer makers are willing to place some orders out [into 2022], too. We saw that trend,” he said. “I’m sure there are aluminum surcharges in there. Aluminum pricing went way up, it came down, it’s still high from the beginning of the year. So if you are going to enter those orders there has to be some buffer there, some negotiation.”

Ake noted sometimes the flatbed manufacturers have had to go back to the fleets two or more times to adjust price. “It’s just been a very tough year to quote.”

In related news, Trail King Industries Inc., the manufacturer of open deck and materials hauling trailers serving a wide variety of markets, announced every piece of equipment sold now will come with the standard addition of zinc-rich primer to enhance corrosion resistance for steel surfaces.

“Trail King spares no effort or expense to ensure that each trailer has a paint finish that is durable, beautiful and offers incredible product protection,” said Rick Farris, vice president of sales at Trail King.

Trail King is headquartered in Mitchell, S.D. It manufactures trailers ranging in load capacities from 12,000 to 1 million pounds.

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