Trailer Orders Continue to Rise Sequentially in October

2022 Comparison Reverts to a Deficit After September Anomaly
Stoughton trailer manufacturing
A Stoughton employee works on a front corner panel. (Stoughton Trailers)

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U.S. trailer orders rose for a fourth consecutive month in October, according to preliminary data released by ACT Research.

Preliminary net trailer orders during the month increased to 35,300 compared with 31,300 units in September as order books for 2024 continue to fill, ACT data show. However, the most recent month’s total was more than 24% lower than October 2022’s preliminary figure of 46,750 units. Only one month in 2023 has seen a year-over-year increase so far: September.

October activity was quite a bit slower than what was seen the last two years, David Giesen, vice president of sales at Stoughton Trailers, told Transport Topics Nov. 20. He noted that the adjustment to the post-pandemic environment was ongoing.

There are quite a few big fleets that are still ordering, Giesen said, but he noted that those fleets are only ordering enough to fill some of their needs rather than filling all of their needs at one time.

The preliminary market estimate should be within +/-5% of the final order tally, according to ACT.

When seasonally adjusted, October’s tally came in at 26,200 units, ACT said.

Jennifer McNealy


“Preliminary net orders, at 26,200 seasonally adjusted, were about 9% lower sequentially,” said Jennifer McNealy, director of commercial vehicle market research and publications at ACT, adding: “While this certainly continues the positive momentum for the industry that began last month, two months of robust orders does not guarantee the full year. It’s still early in the new year order season to call.”

Some trailer manufacturers are keeping an open mind on how order season will pan out overall too.

Chris Hammond


“We saw October order intake at Great Dane as expected,” Chris Hammond, executive vice president of sales at Great Dane, told Transport Topics Nov. 20. “We didn’t open the books until late August for quoting and orders, so it took some time to get orders into the system. In recent years, the order cycle had moved to earlier months like July and August, but now we are seeing a return to the historical time frame of August and October.”

“The data continue to provide mixed messages, with cancellations remaining elevated, driven primarily by the platform and tank segments, even as backlogs remain at healthy levels in general and particularly in the specialty segments” McNealy added.

Looking forward, OEMs will continue to be affected by the weak freight environment, executives said.

As a result of lower freight rates, and lower volumes, buyers are holding off before ordering more trailers, Giesen said.

“We do see that some folks are holding off on orders longer than normal as they work through the current trucking environment,” said Great Dane’s Hammond, adding: “I believe November may be a little more subdued compared to October with the holiday. Overall trailer orders are coming from several segments that are holding strong while a few continue to show some slowdown.”

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Wisconsin-based Stoughton expects the rest of the fourth quarter and the first three months of 2024 to see roughly about the same levels of activity, Giesen said. “I don’t think it will be a dramatic change one way or the other in the next month or two,” he said.

Another factor playing a role in tempering sales is the forthcoming auction of the more than 40,000 trailers previously owned by bankrupt less-than-truckload carrier Yellow Corp.

The Yellow auction is already having an impact on trailer sales, Giesen said. Fleets are waiting when it comes to their purchases and looking at the Yellow trailers that are being auctioned off, he added.