ACT Research: March’s Preliminary Net Trailer Order Data Indicates Year of Transition Underway

According to preliminary data from ACT Research, net trailer orders decreased nominally from February to March. At 13,600 units, orders also were lower compared to last March, down 24% year over year. Seasonal adjustment at this point in the cycle leaves March’s tally essentially unchanged at 13,800 units. Final March results will be available later this month. This preliminary market estimate should be within 5% of the final order tally.

“Against year-ago data still impacted by pent-up demand that is now gone, softer order intake activity continues to meet expectations,” Jennifer McNealy, director of commercial vehicle market research and publications at ACT Research, said. “Net orders remain challenged by a backdrop of weak profitability for for-hire truckers. Anecdotal commentary from trailer manufacturers and suppliers through the past several months have indicated this slowing, as they have shared that orders are coming, but at a more tepid pace when compared to the last few years.

“This month’s results continue to support our thesis that when fleets don’t make money, their ability and/or willingness to purchase equipment is muted. For the trailer industry, this is compounded by the power-unit prebuy ahead of the EPA’s implementation of 2027 regulations, which we believe has already begun. As a result, cancellations remain elevated, and the choice about how to spend limited capex dollars is swinging the pendulum against trailer purchases right now.

“While we remain cautiously optimistic and don’t believe this year will be catastrophic for the trailer markets in general, we note that 2024 thus far is matching expectations as a year of transition. While some specialty segments have no available build slots until late in 2024 at the earliest, the industry’s largest segments remain under pressure, and cancellations are anticipated to continue their oscillation into and out of elevator territory as dealers and fleets recalibrate their inventory and immediate needs.”

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