Preliminary net trailer order estimates topped 26,400 units for February, according to data tracked by ACT Research, with order backlogs growing in several segments, particularly for dry van units.
“We’ve seen delayed timing this order season, as fleets appeared to wait to make their investment decisions ‘post-election.’ That makes analysis of monthly changes as well as year-over-year results a bit challenging,” noted Frank Maly, ACT’s director CV transportation analysis and research, in a statement.
“The January to February decline in net orders, roughly a 20% slide, is much more in line with expectations for the December to January timeframe,” he said. “So this delay in the overall order season has the opposite impact on year-over-year comps; February will be roughly 24% better than the same month last year.”
Maly added that cancelations – defined by ACT as a percent of the trailer order backlog – continued “at a tolerable level, although in February they appear to have drifted upward to the highest rate posted since October.”
Additionally, he said it appears refrigerated trailer order backlogs held steady for February, while both the dry van and total industry order boards posted their fourth straight monthly gain.
Those positive trends convinced Michael Baudendistel, vice president of the transportation & logistics research group at Stifel Capital Markets, to increase his firm’s 2017 trailer production estimate from 250,000 to 265,000 units and its 2018 estimate from 240,000 to 255,000 units.
“[Though] production is likely to start the year weak, we expect strengthening in build rates, in excess of normal seasonality, as the year goes on,” he explained in a research brief.