Trailer orders rebound in June

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Following two sluggish months hampered by the coronavirus, U.S. trailer orders bounced back in June to hit the second-highest monthly total this year.

The 14,400 units booked last month, according to FTR, were up 10,000 from May and 9,000 year-over-year. Trailer orders for the past 12 months total 164,000.

FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles Don Ake noted June’s increase was boosted by a recovery in the dry van market supplemented by decent refrigerated van orders. Flatbed orders remain depressed.

“Some of the larger fleets are sticking to their replacement cycles and ordering trailers,” he said. “Freight has recovered to the point that well-run carriers are profitable, and fleets can retire older trailers.”

Frank Maly, director of CV transportation analysis and research for ACT Research, said while large fleet orders drove much of June’s results, not all OEMs saw significant improvement. He added that he expects that “choppiness” to continue as we move through the summer.

“OEMs continue to seek order/build equilibrium,” he said, “and while some fleets are willing to make investment commitments, most continue to remain on the sidelines, despite some negotiations occurring to help generate order volume.”

As freight volumes continue to improve, Ake said more fleets will grow confident to place orders for delivery this year.

“Quote activity is picking up some,” he added. “However, there are still significant headwinds facing the trailer market as the pandemic hangs on.”

While June activity was improved, Ake said there is still too much uncertainty around the COVID pandemic to give fleets confidence in ordering in large quantities. Backlogs are falling but Ake said they are sufficient to support current production in the van segments, while flatbed producers continue to scramble for orders to build late this year.

“Even though the total was not that impressive, this is still good news for the trailer market. Fleets are closing on some deals that were bid before the pandemic and there are indications this trend will continue,” he said. “It will take several more months, but it appears the trailer market is climbing out of the crevasse it was in and has put the worst of the economic crisis behind it.”