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Hot Freight Market Drives Trailer Orders, But Will it Last?

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Consumer goods purchases supported by this spring’s $2.2 trillion congressional stimulus package contributed to fleets purchasing dry van trailers “in near-record quantities,” according to Freight Transportation Research (FTR) Associates.

Net U.S. trailer orders in September “exploded” to 52,000 units, which made it the third-highest month ever, FTR said. That was an increase of 23,500 units above August and 33,400 more than September 2019. “The strong order totals from the last two months should push production up to pre-pandemic levels in Q4, with more increases expected, starting early next year,” FTR said in a statement.

The September buying spree was dominated by orders for dry vans and refrigerated vans. Flatbed sales continued to be “sluggish.”

“There is expansion demand, replacement demand, dealer demand — just an enormous amount of demand for dry vans to keep consumer goods on the move,” observed Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “Fleets are expecting the hot freight market to continue into 2021 and want to be prepared with adequate capacity. Reefer demand should also continue to be strong, and benefit from more restaurant activity as 2021 progresses.”

Ake warned, however, that an element of “irrational exuberance” might be helping to drive the robust sales. “Fleets are expecting the current conditions to continue well into 2021, and this may not be the case,” he noted. “The trailer market has seen incredibly wide swings in 2020 and it is difficult to determine how long the current momentum can last.”

Click here to access more information from FTR.

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