Almost all the countries of Western Europe will see an increase of trailer demand of more than 20% in 2011—led by Germany, whose output has been boosted by a tripling in demand, according to consulting group CLEAR.

Only Portugal is likely to see a fall in demand, as its economy has effectively gone into reverse.

“The turnaround in trailer output in Germany has been astonishing, but the rapid increase in production is likely to result in output marking time in 2012, and possibly 2013, before further increases are possible,” said Gary Beecroft, managing director of CLEAR. “But eventually German trailer output will exceed 100,000 units again.”

More than half the trailers built in Western Europe will be made in Germany from 2011 to 2015. Three reasons:

  • The German market itself has recovered from the nadir of 2009 in splendid style: Sales of trailers will exceed the combined demand of France, the UK and Italy in 2011 as it did in 2010.
  • Exports of trailers from Germany increased by 90% in 2010 as markets in both East and West Europe, with a very few exceptions, started to recover.
  • Stocks of finished trailers, which had accumulated as the recession bit, had been largely cleaned out, leaving the industry in a very lean condition. This meant that all new orders went straight into increased production.

Despite the good news, the levels of trailer output seen in 2007-2008 will not be repeated in this period, either in Germany or in other countries. In fact, it is possible those levels may never be witnessed again, having been triggered by a combination of financial exuberance and a rash of new countries in Eastern Europe joining the EU.

Looking forward, many countries will see further, though more muted growth in 2012.

The types of trailers that have done relatively badly during the recession are curtain-side, box van and container chassis. Those types that had a less severe downturn were the refrigerated, tipper (dumper) and tanker/bulk trailers. Broadly speaking then, less expensive “commodity” type trailers had a difficult time, whereas expensive specialised trailers saw smaller falls in demand. As usual in a slowdown, falls in the market for semi-trailers were much larger than those for centre-axle and drawbar trailers.

The West European Trailer Market Report (June 2011), with forecasts to 2015, can be obtained from CLEAR using the contact details below. A report for the East European market was issued in April 2011.