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ACT Research: U.S. Trailer Industry Orderboards for 2023 Fully Open, Nearly Committed

May 23, 2023, 07:15 AM
Filed Under: Trucking

During the past six months, trailer manufacturers and major suppliers have largely indicated stable business conditions as compared to each prior month. Responses for May, relative to April, were in line with this trend. That said, this month’s discussions indicated softer demand for 2024 and mixed concern regarding the supply of labor, according to this month’s issue of ACT Research’s State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report.

“The seasonally adjusted backlog-to-build ratio dropped 130 basis points month over month, to 6.9 months in April, from March’s 8.2-month level,” said Jennifer McNealy, Director–CV Market Research & Publications at ACT Research. “Seasonal adjustment takes dry van BL/BU to 7.1 months and reefers to 8.5, so either way one looks at it, with or without seasonal adjustment, and despite the improvement in build, this essentially commits the industry very close to year-end 2023.”

Evidencing continued improvements in supply-chain constraints, April’s build per day increased. That said, overall build was 13 percent lower month over month due to four fewer build days in April than in March. Production growth continues its upswing, and our projections point to a continuation of that trend.

McNealy concluded, “OEMs are reporting that their orderboards for 2023 are fully open, with most booked through the end of the year, and we are hearing that some trailer makers are taking orders into 2024. That said, several concerns are weighing on their minds, including the labor market, slowing demand into 2024, Fed hikes, business investment providing continued pressure on carrier profitability, recession risk, material supply availability and cost, and how all these factors are likely to impact dealer confidence.”

While the sky isn’t falling, there certainly are some clouds on the horizon that bear watching as we move through the remainder of 2023 and prepare for 2024.

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