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ACT Research: U.S. Trailer Industry Demand Dynamic Is Shifting

June 23, 2023, 07:18 AM
Filed Under: Trucking

While the sky still isn’t falling, there certainly are more ominous clouds on the horizon that bear watching closely moving forward, one being a significant uptick in trailer cancellations for a second consecutive month, according to this month’s issue of ACT Research’s State of the Industry: U.S. Trailers report.

“While the broad-based nature of cancellations suggests the turn is starting to come into focus, this is juxtaposed against a backdrop of rather robust backlogs, even with declining orders,” said Jennifer McNealy, Director–CV Market Research & Publications at ACT Research. She explained, “The seasonally adjusted backlog-to-build (BL/BU) ratio gained 120 basis points (bps) month/month, to 8.0 months in May. Seasonal adjustment takes dry van BL/BU to 7.4 months and reefers to 9.1, so despite the improvement in build, this essentially commits the industry through year-end 2023.”

Regarding cancellations, McNealy stated, “Fleet commitments remained mixed in May. Total cancels grew to 4.2 percent of backlog, higher than April’s 2.8 percent and significantly higher than March’s 0.9 percent rate. That said, while several segments were at or below 1.5 percent, dry vans rose to 4.1 percent, reefers are now at 6.5 percent, and flatbeds hit 4.7 percent.” She added, “April’s increase raised an eyebrow, but we cautioned that one month does not a trend make. With two consecutive (and large) jumps in cancellations, both eyes are now wide open.”

McNealy concluded, “Some trailer makers are telling us customers are cutting back on their anticipated order appetite for this year and next, and that fewer customers are on the sidelines to pick up whatever equipment/build slots become available. Clearly, the demand dynamic is shifting.”

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