FTR reports preliminary trailer orders for December retreated to 26,500 units, down 18% m/m and -42% y/y. Trailer orders for 2021 totaled 249,000 units.
OEMs continue to manage backlogs carefully, as the supply chain disruptions persist. Order volume was very close to the average of the previous three months. Liquid tank trailer orders were sturdy. OEMs are booking orders a batch at a time, as they estimate how many trailers they can build in future months based on parts and component availability. Fleets anticipate needing large numbers of trailers in the coming months, but OEMs are reluctant to enter all the commitments into the backlog under current conditions.
Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles, commented, “The trailer market has settled into a pattern similar to Class 8 trucks. Orders have now averaged 26,000 units for the past four months, only a few thousand more than monthly production. That means backlogs have only gone up 6% despite there being tremendous demand for new trailers. You won’t see the order numbers consistently rise until there are ample parts to support significantly higher production.
“It appears that a labor shortage at domestic suppliers is now the number one constraint. The flow of commodity materials has improved and even imported parts deliveries have increased. The employment level at the OEMs is also a significant issue. At least one OEM is offering $1,000 sign-on bonuses for all factory workers. It is anticipated that trailer build will increase steadily once the labor constraints loosen up.”