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Backlogs grow as February trailer orders remain solid, per ACT, FTR

March 17, 2021
“2021 will be another fantastic year for the trailer industry once the supply chain stabilizes,” FTR’s Don Ake said.

Trailers orders dipped month-over-month in February but remained elevated compared to the same month last year, according to the latest reports from ACT Research and FTR Intel.

ACT’s preliminary estimate placed February’s net order volume at 24,200 units, which is an 82% increase from February 2020 but a 21% decline from January 2021. FTR reported net trailer orders of 23,100 units, down 23% month-over-month but up 64% year-over-year, with February activity “consistent with seasonal trends.”

Trailer orders for the past 12 months total 322,000, FTR said.

Frank Maly, ACT’s director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research, said year-over-year improvement in net orders is a “foregone conclusion” over the next few months, given last year’s COVID-related soft economy.

“February’s sequential decline in net orders was a bit larger than seasonal patterns would project, but was directionally correct,” Maly said. “Preliminary results for the month still show that the industry backlog continued to grow in February, reaching the highest point since March 2019. With many OEMs reporting their capacity committed for the year, there may be some reluctance to push the backlog horizon out even further, on both the part of OEMs and fleets.

“The backlog horizon will be pulled forward in response to higher OEM build rates. February prelims indicate that goal remains elusive, with minimal increases in production rates last month. Our discussions indicate that staffing remains the primary headwind impeding higher production, with component and material supplies also noted as concerns.

“Fleets want to add more trailers to their operations, but would certainly like more advantageous delivery timeframes.”

FTR concurred, saying more trailers are need to meet growing freight market demand. Most fleets already placed their orders for 2021 delivery, FTR said, especially for dry and refrigerated vans. Orders in the flatbed and other vocational segments are expected to continue to recover until entering the summer months.

“Fleets have placed large orders for trailers in response to the robust freight demand,” said Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles. “OEMs are under pressure to fill these orders due to bottlenecks in the supply chain. Suppliers are facing worker shortages; some raw materials are scarce and there are still delays getting some imported parts through the West Coast ports. Once the situation improves, production will be steady, at high volumes for an extended time.

“2021 will be another fantastic year for the trailer industry once the supply chain stabilizes. Freight growth should continue to be vibrant throughout the year. Consumer freight has been elevated for months and now manufacturing freight is poised to bounce. Demand for trailers will continue at elevated rates, right into 2022. Fleets desperately need more trailers right now and this trend will continue until supply catches up with demand.”

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Commercial Vehicle Staff

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