ACT Research
Act Trailer Backlog September

ACT’s trailer outlook remains cloudy

Oct. 26, 2023
September year-over-year order comparisons come in positive, but a lingering freight recession continues to fuel demand uncertainty

September opened the peak order season for trailers, so while it’s tempting to say, “here comes the sun,” ACT Research was careful to note that one month’s data isn’t enough to “blow those clouds away” and freight market clouds haven’t “started to clear.”

The outlook comes from this month’s ACT State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report.

“September’s order intake, at 31,300 units, signifies that interest remains and the negotiations of the past few months are turning into booked business,” Jennifer McNealy, ACT director of CV market research and publications, said in a news release. “What we don’t yet know, and why some in the industry still consider demand worse than a year ago, is how long this level of deal closing can be sustained amid the freight recession that has lingered through 2023.

“September marked the first time in 2023 that year-over-year comparisons have been positive, so certainly a welcome sign for the industry.”

Regarding the trailer backlog, McNealy added, “As expected, orders outpaced production in September, as the annual peak order season kicked off in good fashion. Trailer backlogs grew 3% sequentially, but were nearly 21% lower y/y, against 2022’s supply-chain constrained and pent-up demand heavy environment.

“The backlog is now nearly 138,800 units.

“With a two-week drop, the positioning of the backlog relative to build remains healthy. Despite the month’s bigger backlog, a stronger September build rate pushed the seasonally adjusted backlog-to-build ratio to six months At September’s build rate, the current backlog essentially commits the industry well into Q1 ’24.

“That said, the data continue to provide mixed messages, with cancellations remaining elevated, even as backlogs remain at healthy, albeit shorter, levels.”