Trailer Output Drops 46% in 2009
Feb 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Paul Schenck
It was a disastrous year for truck trailer manufacturers the worst in 32 years. Not since 1978 have the trailer shipment levels sunk to such a low level. [View Table]
Every manufacturer built fewer trailers last year than in 2008, at least among the largest 25 trailer builders. And some were affected less than other companies. Some normally very busy manufacturers were down 69% and 71% in unit volume. The two most fortunate trailer builders declined only 6% and 13%. More usual was a 50% drop in production.
The best market segment in 2009 was refrigerated trailers, which was down only 19% from the 2008 level. Agricultural trailers also did well, or less badly, than other trailer types. The poorest results were with platform trailers. As one manufacturer explained, Our customers buy platforms to haul building products for the construction industry and steel for the automotive plants. Both construction and autos were hard hit.
The results of Trailer/Body Builders' annual survey of the largest trailer manufacturers in North America shows that the top 25 builders (plus two) shipped 78,258 trailers in 2009. These same companies reported shipments of 146,182 trailers in 2008, which represents a 46% decline in '09. The Trailer/Body Builders survey includes some Canadian and Mexican factories that sell some of their production in the United States. It does not include the results from smaller manufacturers. As such, the results of the survey will differ slightly from the totals compiled by other sources.
The top three trailer manufacturers built 57% of all the trailers manufactured by this list of 25 (plus two) manufacturers. The top 10 manufacturers (those building at least 2,000 trailers) built 81%.
One of the surprising results of this year's Top 25 survey was the strength of the refrigerated trailer segment compared to the total trailer market. Reefers boosted Utility Trailer Manufacturing to the top spot from its normally third-largest position. For many years the company has been the largest refrigerated trailer manufacturer in the United States and the world. This year Utility built almost four times as many reefers as dry-freight vans. It built well over half of all the refrigerated trailers manufactured in North America in 2009.
One of the reasons refrigerated trailer production in 2009 was down only 19% compared to the general trailer market being down 46% has to do with government regulations. Specifically, a new regulation by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) requires any mechanically refrigerated trailer unit operating in California that is over seven years old be modified or replaced to reduce particulate matter emissions. Some seven-year-old refrigeration units could be fitted with a particulate filter, while others had to have a new engine or new refrigeration unit. The effective date was July 17, 2009.
Another CARB regulation requires all 53-ft trailers operating in California be certified EPA SmartWay or be equipped with aerodynamic devices and low rolling resistance tires to achieve a 5% fuel saving (4% for reefers). It went into effect January 1, 2010 and will apply to all new 53-ft 2011 and later model year dry-freight van and refrigerated trailers.
This ranking of companies by the number of trailers manufactured does not necessarily reflect the relative success of the companies in terms of revenue received or profitability. The dollar value of a trailer can be far different depending on complexity of design, type of construction, materials used and quality level.
This Trailer/Body Builders survey is made by personally telephoning a member of the management team at each trailer manufacturing company. The editors wish to congratulate the leading firms listed here, first of all for surviving the worst financial crisis and recession since World War II. Secondly, they are to be congratulated for sharing their individual production numbers with the rest of the industry. When the numbers are so embarrassingly low, the temptation is strong to keep private information private. We applaud them for their industry-minded spirit that works for the betterment of the entire industry. Thank you.
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