Commercial truck trailer orders nearly tripled from a year ago in September and rose 19 percent from order levels in August, according to ACT Research.
"Strong reefer van orders and improved flatbed trailer orders were key drivers of demand in September," said Kenny Vieth, partner and president of ACT Research.
Net trailer orders were at their highest volume since May, when a surge in inventory restocking by retailers and corporate spending accelerated shipping demand.
By The Numbers: U.S. IMC Highway Yield.
"Seasonally adjusted, September's order activity represented the best volume in the past 32 months," Vieth said. Orders jumped 182 percent from a year ago.
The sequential increase, in particular, seems surprising, as the economy has been seen as slowing and freight volumes slipping in recent months.
The surge in orders may represent demand for equipment to replace older units. The trailer market suffered its worst year in the past five decades in 2009.
Heavy truck orders also surged in September, typically a weak sales month. Net Class 8 truck orders rose 23.2 percent from August and 37 percent from a year ago.
The increase in truck and trailer orders tracked an increase in for-hire truck tonnage in September reported by the American Trucking Associations.
The ATA's seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 1.7 percent in September after dropping in August and was up 5.1 percent from a year ago.
The tonnage gain reflects an economy that is "barely growing," said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. Truck volumes leveled off over the summer, he said.
-- Contact William B. Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org.