The West European trailer market finished 2011 up 27.2% over 2010, although it has only recovered to the level of 2003, which itself was at the bottom of a mild downturn, according to consulting group CLEAR.

This year will not provide any growth — in fact, there will be a small drop in the demand for new trailers — thanks to the continuing Euro-zone debt crisis and the resultant fall in business confidence. The economic outlook for 2012 has been downgraded in recent months in every nation of the region. Both GDP and business investment growth will fall below 1% in most countries.

Looking further forward, there are grounds for optimism in 2013 and 2014.

“Trailer demand has been well below the long-term trend level since 2009,” said Gary Beecroft, managing director of CLEAR. “Even with a good level of growth in 2013-14, we will only just get back to trend at the end of 2014.”

In the meantime, a backlog of replacement demand is building. Because the level of new trailer sales is still low, the trailer parc (fleet size) is both ageing and shrinking. Eventually it becomes uneconomical to keep running old equipment, which should lead to increased demand for new vehicles.