ACT Research: Analysts Forecast Higher Trailer Build in 2023 at the Expense of 2024

ACT Research Co.
3 min readMay 24, 2023

According to this quarter’s issue of ACT Research’s Trailer Components & Raw Materials Forecast, OEMs are reporting that their orderboards for 2023 are fully open, with most booked through the end of the year (a few with spots still available in Q4), and some trailer makers are taking orders into 2024. That said, several concerns are weighing on their minds, including the tightening labor market, slowing demand into 2024, inflation pressuring consumer spending, business investment providing continued pressure on carrier profitability, recession risk, material supply availability and cost, and how all these factors are likely to impact dealer confidence.

a graph showing trailer industry build year-over-year percent change data from January 2014 through April 2023
Trailer Industry Build

“Build in the last three months (Feb-Apr) of 83,300 units, was more than 6% higher than the same three-month period last year, while net orders of 52,600 trailers was about 38% lower for the February to April 2023 period, versus the same three months in 2022,” said Jennifer McNealy, Director-CV Market Research & Publications at ACT Research. “Based on the same three-month comparison, backlog of 212,700 units this year was nearly 7% more than the 199,600 units pending production last year.”

McNealy concluded, “During the past six months, trailer manufacturers and major suppliers have largely indicated stable business conditions as compared to each prior month. Responses for May, relative to April, were in line with this trend.”

ACT’s US trailer forecasts, as well as its forecast of the components and raw materials needed to manufacture that equipment, is not only based on build, but on an ongoing secular shift and pent-up demand.

According to Eric Crawford, ACT’s Vice President & Senior Analyst, “For dry vans especially, there is a strong case for a secular shift to higher trailer/tractor ratios by big fleets and the creation of trailer pools by mega-brokerages. At its core, this shift stems from a desire to raise productivity and reduce expenses in the brokerage space.” He added, “In 2023, we forecast elevated build rates and relatively muted economic growth will cut into pent-up demand by ~25k units, leaving ~32k units of pent-up demand as we enter 2024. That said, we forecast pent-up demand will be more than satiated by year-end 2024, as our 165k dry van build forecast implies an over-build of ~13k units.”

ACT Research’s U.S. New Trailer Components & Materials Forecast provides those in the trailer production supply chain, as well as those who invest in said suppliers and commodities, with forecast quantities of components and raw materials required to support the trailer forecast for the coming five years. It includes near-term quarterly predictions for two years, while the latter three years of the forecast are shown in annual details. Additionally, analysis is segmented into two categories: those needed for the structural composition of new trailers and those used in the production of undercarriage assembly.

ACT Research is recognized as the leading publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis, and forecasts for the North America and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies. ACT Research is a contributor to the Blue Chip Economic Indicators and a member of the Wall Street Journal Economic Forecast Panel. ACT Research executives have received peer recognition, including election to the Board of Directors of the National Association for Business Economics, appointment as Consulting Economist to the National Private Truck Council, and the Lawrence R. Klein Award for Blue Chip Economic Indicators’ Most Accurate Economic Forecast over a four-year period. ACT Research senior staff members have earned accolades including Chicago Federal Reserve Automotive Outlook Symposium Best Overall Forecast, Wall Street Journal Top Economic Outlook, and USA Today Top 10 Economic Forecasters. More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

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ACT Research Co.

ACT Research is the leader in commercial vehicle industry data, market analysis, and forecasting services for North America.