ACT: U.S. Trailer Market Hits Second Highest Order Month in History

ACT Research reported 45,700 net trailer orders posted to the backlog in December, marking the second-highest net order month in history, trailing only October 2014.

“Major support came from dry vans, which posted their highest net order monthly volume in history. Eight of 10 trailer categories were up [month over month], while a similar count was up [year over year],” said Frank Maly, director of CV transportation analysis and research at ACT Research. “For the full year, industry net orders were up 38%, and robust orderboards are encouraging fleets to submit orders to obtain preferred/acceptable delivery timing for 2018.”

Total production in December was 19,400 trailers, the lowest monthly production since February 2014.

“The majority of the decline came from dry vans, where some holiday-related scheduling occurred for the second straight year, holding down volume,” Maly said. “Inventory drawdown helped offset lower production last month. Added production capacity, helping to generate that higher inventory as the year progressed, also provided support. Total build for the month was equivalent to last year, which also saw holiday-scheduling impact.”

In addition, the ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index indicated that the freight index rose faster than the capacity index in each of the last 12 months, allowing the supply-demand balance to climb to the highest reading ever recorded.

“The wide spread between freight and capacity additions bodes well for continued strength in freight rates into the new year,” said Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s vice president and senior analyst. “Clearly, truckers are entering 2018 in the best negotiating position in many years.”

Survey respondents reported a wide range of productivity effects from the recent severe weather. These centered on a 10% utilization hit in late-December/early-January for the fleets in the affected areas. Moderate productivity impacts were felt even in the Southeast.

As part of the January survey, ACT Research asked fleets about the expected impact of the new tax laws to their capital spending plans. While 56% of respondents indicated that the new tax law would have no impact, many are still evaluating and see potential positive effects on capital spending.

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