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May 22, 2015 1:00 PM, EDT

Trailer Orders Drop 31% in April Due to Limited Build Slots, ACT Says

Trailer orders dropped 31% in April compared with a year ago, ACT Research said, but the firm attributed the decline to a shortage of remaining manufacturing capacity rather than weaker demand.

Trailer makers recorded about 18,000 net orders last month, down from 26,226 in April 2014 and a 22% drop from 23,135 in March, according to ACT’s data.

Orders have decreased from year-ago levels in three consecutive months.

ACT analyst Frank Maly said the recent downturn reflects the scarcity of 2015 build slots for many key product lines after a “tremendous” surge in orders from September to January.

During that timeframe, fleets placed their order commitments earlier than usual in a race to ensure timely delivery of their new trailers, Maly said.

“Our view that 2015 will be the best trailer market since the late 1990s remains unchanged,” he added.

In the first four months of 2015, the industry has built about 100,000 trailers, up 25% from the same timeframe last year, he said.

At the end of April, industry backlogs still stood at about 171,000 units, representing about seven months of production, Maly said. The order backlog was down 5% from the previous month, but still 40% higher than a year earlier.