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ACT: Trailer orders up ‘nominally’ in December

Jan. 17, 2024
With a preliminary count of 24,300 units, trailer orders improve slightly month-over-month but remain down by nearly 58% year-over-year

Net trailer orders increased “nominally” from November to December, but with a preliminary count of 24,300 units, orders were down by nearly 58% year-over-year, according to a new report from ACT Research.

A seasonal adjustment further lowers December’s tally to 17,200 units, ACT added.

“While orders were down materially from year-ago levels, preliminary net orders, at 17,200 seasonally adjusted, were about 10% higher sequentially,” said Jennifer McNealy, ACT director of CV market research and publications. “After a disappointing although not unexpected drop last month, December’s preliminary net orders aligned with less-than-stellar expectations, particularly amid a backdrop of weak profitability for truckers and anecdotal commentary from trailer manufacturers who have shared that orders are coming but at a slower pace than they have 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. That said, the lower orders don’t indicate a catastrophic year in the offing either, simply the slowest December we’ve seen since before the pandemic began.”

McNealy added that other indicators that bare watching include cancellations, which “oscillated above comfortable levels” for many segments in December, and backlog-to-build ratio, which in aggregate “is weakening.”

The backlog-to-build ratio now stands at about five months, ACT indicated.

“However, some specialty segments have no available build slots until late in 2024 at the earliest, while others are in the three-month range,” McNealy concluded.

ACT Research’s State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report provides a monthly review of the current U.S. trailer market statistics, as well as trailer OEM build plans and market indicators divided by all major trailer types, including backlogs, build, inventory, new orders, cancellations, net orders, and factory shipments.

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