Orders of new trailers hit a 33-month high in October, as dry van trailer orders more than doubled, according to ACT Research. Total orders topped of 17,000 units.
“The strength in October orders was widespread, but was clearly led by a surge in demand for dry van trailers,” said Kenny Vieth, president and partner at ACT.
October’s gains followed a strong September for trailer and truck sales. Trailer orders in September were up 182 percent from September 2009.
That surge isn’t supporting increased demand for new capacity. Instead, it’s a sign that transport operators are getting serious about replacing aging equipment.
It was only the second month since early 2007 that dry van net orders exceeded what ACT considers to be replacement level, indicating that carriers are just beginning to catch up with a lagging equipment replacement cycle, Vieth said.
Class 8 tractor orders also hit their second highest level in two years in October, rising 24 percent month-over-month from September to about 18,900 units.
Trucking companies and other fleet operators that held onto trucks and trailers during the recession rather than trade them are retiring them, Vieth said.
The average age of a Class 8 tractor is now 6.7 years, according to ACT, and truck owners will soon have to replace or retire those vehicles to maintain service levels.
“The challenge of maintaining 99 percent on-time delivery becomes incrementally more difficult with an older fleet,” Vieth told The Journal of Commerce.
Vieth forecasts increasingly tight over-the-road capacity in 2011. “We see below replacement retail sales continuing through the first half of 2011,” he said.
“We’ve started a process of capacity shortfall,” said Vieth. “By the time we get to the middle of 2011, we see a shortfall of 3 to 4 percent, which is huge.”
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