Two trucking research firms recently reported differing trailer order outlooks for May—but they agreed on the market conditions influencing the ups and downs of trailer manufacturing with so much ongoing supply chain uncertainty.
FTR Transportation Intelligence had its preliminary trailer orders for the month near April’s activity at 18,300 units, though down 3% over last May and up 80% year-over-year. Trailer orders for the past 12 months have totaled 250,000, according to FTR.
ACT Research, meanwhile, had net trailer orders down in May about 7% but near the same total as FTR’s, 18,300 units. But FTR had orders up significantly—111%—from the same month last year.
FTR reported that trailer manufacturing continues to face economic uncertainties, geopolitical risks, and continued supply chain disruptions.
“Until next year’s order boards open, the limited availability of build spots in the second half of the year will continue to restrict new trailer orders,” according to a June 14 release from FTR.
Charles Roth, commercial vehicles analyst for FTR, added: “As we get closer to Q4, OEMs will begin to gain necessary visibility into the future impacts brought by supply chain disruptions and overcome suppliers’ caution to commit to 2023 pricing and lead times.”
He added: “As production continues to be limited by both structural and dynamic complexities in the global and domestic supply chain, we have seen modest improvements made on the supply side. Provided this trend continues, production should remain stable. However, the possibility of further disruptions could result in modest adjustments to second-half build plans.
“Under these conditions, OEMs are still proving that they can overcome headwinds and keep production at consistent levels, while also carefully and strategically managing their backlog. Despite economic and supply chain uncertainties, freight growth remains strong. This growth will continue to drive robust fleet replacement demand. While the prior six months have resulted in dealers struggling to maintain adequate inventory levels, retail demand should also contribute to OEM confidence heading into the second half of the year.”
Jennifer McNealy, director of commercial vehicle market research and publications at ACT, said “seasonal patterns call for a sequential decline in net orders in May, and preliminary reports indicate that volumes met those expectations. Just as dry vans were responsible for April’s dramatically lower bookings, they were the buttress for May’s year-over-year increase.
“We continue to believe there is reluctance to push the order board horizon into next year, as OEMs continue to closely control order acceptance,” she added. “That said, active negotiations, the calendar inching toward a 2023 opening, and new capacity scheduled to come online in the near future could explain this month’s preliminary report. It’s also worth mentioning that last year’s May net orders represented the lowest monthly volume since the COVID-impacted months of 2020.”