May trailer orders improve — to second-weakest month on record

Fleets ordered 3,107 new trailers in May compared to a net of just 209 orders in April when an already softening market collided with the COVID-19 pandemic, ACT Research reported Monday.

The improvement was welcome, but orders still trailed year-ago bookings by 71%. In April,  almost all new orders were offset by cancellations of existing orders.

Total new orders in May were 7,400 before accounting for cancellations, 29% above April’s total of 5,700.

“Although up from April’s record low, May’s net orders will still rank as the second-weakest in industry history,” said Frank Maly, ACT director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research. “There is little incentive for fleets to invest in new equipment right now.”

However, Hyundai Translead, the industry leader in dry van manufacturing, said requests for new equipment quotes are rising.

“Quote volume in June is three times what it was in April,” Sean Kenney, Hyundai Translead chief sales officer, told FreightWaves. “We’re seeing things unlock. The slope of the climb-out is going to be determined by what state you’re in.”

Maly said caution about trailer orders is warranted despite a general re-opening of the U.S. economy that includes some post-quarantine consumer-generated surges.

“Significant apprehension is being expressed about small-to-medium fleets, and the concern is that the PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] lifelines many may have grasped will run out before a post-lockdown economy generates freight at sufficient volumes and profitable rates,” he said.

That, Maly said, could mean serious implications for both trailer manufacturers and dealers.

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