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Trailer orders bounce back in November

Dec. 14, 2021
Preliminary data from FTR and ACT Research show that November net trailer orders are on the rebound as large fleets place 2022 orders and OEMs begin to solidify their production plans.

A spike in November trailer order activity is the result of large fleets placing 2022 orders and OEMs feeling confident enough to solidify their production plans going into next year.  

FTR Transportation Intelligence reports preliminary trailer orders for November bounced back to 32,000 units, up 89% month-over-month. While ACT Research preliminary data show net orders of 31,000 trailers were posted during the month, a 78% increase over October.

Both ACT Research and FTR report that order activity trailed the same month last year by about 22% and 23%, respectively. While the order activity fell compared to 2020, it was still the highest monthly total of the year and the best since December 2020. Trailer orders for the past 12 months now total 267,000 units, according to FTR.

The increase in order activity was mainly a result of large fleets placing 2022 orders and OEMs having the confidence of entering them into the backlog, FTR reported.

“This is great news for the trailer market,” said Don Ake, FTR’s VP of commercial vehicles. “Fleets are signaling they will need considerably more trailers in 2022 to handle the freight growth and relieve some of the pressures in industry capacity and the spot markets. It also indicates the OEMs are beginning to look forward beyond Q1 and expect to be able to lift build rates at some point. Orders have been under the 30,000-unit mark for nine months, so this is an impressive number in that regard.”

FTR also pointed out that dry and refrigerated van orders improved, and there was an increase in flatbed activity as well. The OEMs are finalizing their Q1 production schedules and attempting to manage backlogs while continuing to struggle with supply chain disruptions.

See also: Class 8 order drop reflects lack of confidence in supply chain

“There is still much uncertainty as we enter 2022,” Ake said. “Some OEMs are still reluctant to enter orders too far in advance under these conditions. Quoting prices for future sales remains a challenge, and some OEMs are employing surcharges and other tactics to manage new orders and total backlog. Therefore, the November orders indicate that progress is being made. When there is enough certainty and confidence about 2022, orders should rise accordingly.”

More OEMs beginning to accept orders in November is an indication that they are growing more comfortable with the likely path of market factors such as component availability and pricing, as well as staffing, explained Frank Maly, ACT Research’s director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research.

“[OEM] plans for the upcoming year are beginning to firm, and this order volume will push the industry’s order board horizon, on average, solidly into the third quarter of next year,” Maly said. “While this preliminary estimate would rank November as the second-best net order month of the year, trailing only January, final data could well result in November standing as the best month of the year so far.”

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