Trailer Sales Slump in January

FTR reports United States trailer net orders for January at 17,900 units, a 30 percent decline from December and 37 percent below a year ago. In spite of orders being under 20,000 units, they met FTR expectations for a fall off in activity after four consecutive months of strong trailer orders.

Much of the decline was due to dry van orders being the lowest they have been since May 2015, along with weak flatbed orders for the month. Refrigerated van orders were at a reasonable level for January, up 33 percent from December.

Conversely to orders, overall trailer build was up for January, albeit marginally at a 3 percent increase, and impacted, primarily by an improvement in dry van production with some added numbers for flatbed trailers as well. Most other trailer segments showed weaker month-to-month production. The tank trailer segment remains weak with dump trailers remaining at a steady level.

“Normally this would be a poor order month for January, but these are far from normal circumstances,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “Orders averaged over 33,000 for the previous four months, so a pullback of this magnitude was totally expected. Most large fleets have their orders in for the first half of the year; there are not many open build slots left.

“Backlogs for vans are very robust, so, even if there are several weak order months, production should hold steady during the first half of 2016. Production this January was the same as January 2015. However, last year the market was on the upswing, and this year it is cooling off somewhat. Trailer production is expected to outpace truck production for the next several months.”

The full trailer data is available as part of FTR’s North American Truck & Trailer Outlook service.