ACT Research

Trailer orders climb in October, per ACT, FTR

Nov. 20, 2023
ACT Research reports a preliminary 4,000-unit month-over-month increase, to 35,300 trailers, while FTR sees a 6,000-unit bump up to 34,400 trailers

Fleets ordered more trailers in October than in the previous month, according to new data from ACT Research and FTR Transportation Intelligence.

Preliminary net orders spiked by 4,000 units month-over-month from September, reaching 35,300 trailers in October, ACT reported; while FTR’s numbers show a 6,000-unit month-over-month increase to 34,400 units. Still, October orders were down 26% year-over-year, and seasonal adjustments lower October’s tally to 26,200 units, ACT added.

“Preliminary net orders, at 26,200 seasonally adjusted, were about 9% lower sequentially,” Jennifer McNealy, ACT director of commercial vehicle market research and publications, said in a news release. “While this certainly continues the positive momentum for the industry that began last month, two months of robust orders does not guarantee the full year. It’s still early in the new-year order season to call.

“The data continue to provide mixed messages, with cancellations remaining elevated, driven primarily by the platform and tank segments, even as backlogs remain at healthy levels in general and particularly in the specialty segments. The BL/BU ratio was well north of five months in aggregate, with some specialty segments having no available build slots until late in 2024 at the earliest.

“We’ve been hearing that order discussions were occurring, and it looks like quotations continue to convert to ‘booked’ business.”

FTR reported October orders dipped 21% year-over-year but still reached their highest level since December 2022. Orders over the last 12 months now total 294,000 units. Builds improved 4% month-over-month in October but lagged net orders, so backlogs rose for only the second time in 2023, FTR continued.

September was the first month of the year to see an increase in backlogs.

“Trailer backlogs relative to production levels overall are in line with normal levels historically, but they vary notably by trailer type,” said Eric Starks, FTR chairman of the board. “The backlog-to-build ratios for van trailers are still elevated and should support current production levels. The ratios are much lower for more specialized trailer types, raising concerns over possible cuts in production down the road. On the plus side, the order increases in October for most specialized trailer types greatly outperformed dry van and refrigerated van trailers.”

ACT expects the trailer backlog to increase by 7,300 units to approximately 146,100 trailers when complete October data is released. “As this number is derived from estimated data, note there will be some variability to reported backlogs when final data are collected,” McNealy said.