Trailer Output Drops 46% in 2009
Feb 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Paul Schenck
Utility Trailer Manufacturing in City of Industry, California, demonstrated the benefits of supplying the food industry in a recession year. Utility Trailer production was down only 26% to 16,544 total trailers, primarily due to its strong position in the refrigerated trailer segment. Utility produced 12,428 reefers, down only 2% from their 2008 number. But dry freight van trailers were down 60% to 3,246, and platforms were down 58% to 870.
Utility Trailer has hired back several hundred workers that had been on lay-off. Production at its five trailer plants in the United States has increased steadily since the bottom of the recession for Utility and the trailer industry in January 2009.
Craig Bennett, senior vice-president of sales and marketing, says they are hoping the trend will continue this year, but the industry is facing more problems, such as increasing regulations, increasing material costs, the increasing cost of regulatory compliance, and the bankruptcies of several suppliers.
Utility Trailer remains the largest manufacturer of refrigerated trailers in the world.
Great Dane Limited Partnership built approximately 15,000 truck trailers in 2009, principally dry freight vans, refrigerated vans, and platform trailers. This is 13,500 fewer than in 2008, a decline of 47%.
Wabash National Corporation shipped 12,800 truck trailers, down 62% from the 33,300 trailers sold in 2008. Shipments include sales of some trailers that were built in 2008, making the number actually built in 2009 about 1,500 units less than shipments. The shipments include 9,547 dry freight vans and 1,813 refrigerated vans. Platform shipments numbered 844. The company also built 48 dump trailers, plus some others unspecified by type. Wabash also built 354 converter dollies, but that number is not included in the trailer totals.
“We are encouraged to see order activity pick up,” said Dick Giromini, president and CEO. “Our backlog at the end of the year was $137 million, up from $96 million in September and $110 million as of a year ago. Key economic indicators also show noteworthy levels of stabilization and even incremental improvement. Industry sources expect trailer demand to increase during the third and fourth quarters of 2010, with demand improving markedly in 2011 and 2012.
“Wabash has meaningfully reduced its breakeven point and positioned itself for increased profitability as volume levels improve,” Giromini said.
Cost containment at Wabash during the past year included the Lafayette Transformation Project which eliminated three dry van production lines in its main plant in Lafayette, Indiana.
In November Wabash announced that it was selling the Anna, Illinois, production facility of its wholly owned subsidiary, Transcraft Corp.
Terry Campbell, general manager of Transcraft, said all production of platforms and dump trailers and bodies would be moved during the first half of 2010 to the company's new facility in Cadiz, Kentucky, which has been building Transcraft's aluminum platform and dump product lines. The Anna plant is being sold to a local lumberyard and home center business that wants to expand.
Hyundai Translead of San Diego, California, produced 4,716 trailers in 2009, down 28% from 2008. This includes 3,775 dry van trailers, down 33%, and 941 refrigerated trailers, a 5% increase over 2008 production.
“We are putting out more quotes — real quotes this year,” says Stuart James, VP sales. “The first quarter of 2010 is an uphill battle, but the second quarter is looking good, and the last half of the year looks even better.”
Manufacturing facilities for Hyundai Translead are in Tijuana, Mexico, just across the border from San Diego.
Timpte Inc in David City, Nebraska, had an outstanding year, down only 13% after an 8% increase the previous year. Timpte built 2,825 hopper trailers in 2009, almost all of them for hauling corn, soybeans, and other commodities.
Dale Jones, president and CEO, says both the corn and soybean crops were good in 2009, and ethanol production remained stable. Barring any crop failures, he thinks the grain trailer market will remain about the same in 2010.
The strong ag market resulted in a small plant expansion at Timpte last year. The company added onto the plant to expand the final inspection department.
Wilson Trailer Company in Sioux City, Iowa, produced 2,750 truck trailers in 2009, down 21% from the previous year. Its strong position in the ag market with both livestock trailers and grain trailers has been supplemented over the years with platform trailers and gooseneck trailers. Its five manufacturing plants are located in Yankton and Lennox, South Dakota; Moberly, Missouri; and two in Sioux City, Iowa.
Stoughton Trailers LLC produced 2,600 trailers, down 53% from 2008, which had been down 52% from 2007. These are all van trailers, with the exception of some grain hoppers, a new line that Stoughton restarted three years ago in an attempt to diversify. All are produced in the headquarters plant in Stoughton, Wisconsin.
Ken Wahlin, president, says ordering is better than last year at this time, and quote activity is improving. However, he foresees a bumpy year ahead with possible problems looming in material costs, fuel prices, and customer survivability.
Heil Trailer International of Athens, Tennessee, reports production of 2,300 total trailers globally, down 43% from 2008. This includes commercial trailer business, military contracts, and international operations. Heil tank trailer plants are located at its headquarters in Athens, Tennessee, and at Rhome, Texas. Its Kalyn Seibert subsidiary manufactures heavy-duty lowbeds in Gatesville, Texas. Heil's international tank trailer plants are in Canuelas, Argentina, and Bangkok, Thailand.
Greg Heyer, Heil vice-president sales and marketing globally, says the company is expecting a flat year in 2010. Production in the first quarter of 2009 was still good working off the backlog from 2008, and the slowdown came later in the year. That big backlog is not there this year.
Fontaine Trailer Company in Haleyville, Alabama, built 2,125 platform and lowbed trailers, down 36% from 2008 after a 54% drop from 2007. Hank Prochazka, VP sales for the Fontaine Trailer commercial business, says sales would have been down much more except for the introduction of a new model, the Revolution. One model is all-aluminum and the other is a hybrid with steel frame and aluminum deck. He says the company is starting to see some improvement in ordering and sell-down of dealer inventories.
Fontaine closed its Kent, Ohio, plant and moved that all-aluminum production to the Haleyville facility. It also closed the Princeton, Kentucky, plant and moved its military production to Jasper, Alabama.
MANAC in St Georges, Quebec, produced 2,000 trailers in 2009, down 52% from the 4,150 built in 2008. MANAC produces a diversified line of trailers from its two Canadian plants ranging from dry vans to logging trailers. Its two US plants manufacture platforms in Kennett, Missouri, and bottom dumps in Oran, Missouri. Charles Dutil, MANAC president and CEO, says the company is starting out the year with a better volume of business than it did a year ago, which is encouraging.
Vanguard National Trailer Corp in Monon, Indiana, built 1,715 trailers in 2009, down 61% from production in 2008. These are generally all dry-freight vans, although the company is gearing up its refrigerated trailer production using sidewalls, floors and roofs built and insulated in China and assembled in Monon (See December issue of Trailer/Body Builders, pages 14 to 24).
“We expect 2010 to be a better year and Vanguard to be a much stronger force in the market,” says Charles Mudd, president. “I expect the market will be slightly better than the economists predict. Many fleets are aging and they can't wait any longer to replace some older equipment.”
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