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Trailer orders continue down swing, but trend not sign of problem

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ACT Research says year-to-date net orders through April were just over 80,000 units, down 37% from last year. (Courtesy: GREAT DANE))

The two major organizations that collect and analyze commercial vehicle data report that trailer orders remain subdued, but also indicate the lower numbers are not necessarily indicative of a problem.

ACT Research’s Frank Maly, director-CV transportation analysis and research, said that trailer industry net orders have eased meaningfully since November of 2018, as year-over-year-comparisons have now been in the red for the last five months, but that the order weakness is not indicative of fleets’ unwillingness to invest.

Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles, said the low order level does not in any way reflect a softening of demand, but rather the fact that many large OEM’s have filled their order boards for 2019. Backlogs remain hefty, with robust production levels. Trailers orders for the past 12 months now total 364,000 units, he said.

“Year-to-date net orders through April were just over 80,000 units, down 37% from last year, but despite this, current orderboards still stretch to nearly year-end for the total industry,” Maly said. “Order weakness is more a symptom of OEM reticence to fully open 2020 orderboards than fleets’ unwillingness to invest, as we’re hearing of OEMs actively gathering ‘verbal commitments’ for the first half of 2020, with some orders reportedly being posted as ‘price pending’.”

Maly said softer new orders have been joined by higher cancellations in recent months, despite widespread implementation of cancellation penalties.

“However, trailer production continues at robust levels, with March of 2019 as the second highest production month in industry history,” he said. “ACT anticipates strong production levels through the remainder of this year, but see OEMs continuing to be challenged by component and material issues, as well as staffing.”

FTR reported preliminary trailer orders for April 2019 remained subdued for the second consecutive month coming in at 13,200 units, which is 40% below the same month in 2018.

“We expect the backlogs to remain very healthy, supporting continued high build rates,” Ake said. “Orders likely will stay at low volumes through the summer, or until OEMs open the 2020 order boards. OEMs have been cautious about taking longer-term orders due to uncertainty over future costs. Right now, the Chinese tariff situation is just adding to an already cloudy outlook.”

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ACT Research For-Hire Trucking Index: Bottoming process under way?

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ACT Research Vice President and Senior Analyst Tim Denover said a recent surge in the For-Hire Trucking Index is being partially driven by strong consumer trends. (Courtesy: ACT RESEARCH)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — The latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index with September data showed an even stronger surge than July with the Volume Index up to 59.6 (seasonally-adjusted) from 47.6 in August.

The September Pricing Index rebounded as well, if to a lesser degree, rising to 52.2 (SA), from 47.1 in August.

The ACT For-Hire Trucking Index is a monthly survey of for-hire trucking service providers. ACT Research converts responses into diffusion indexes, where the neutral or flat level is 50. In return, participants receive a detailed monthly analysis of the survey data, including volumes, freight rates, capacity, productivity and purchasing intentions, plus a complimentary copy of ACT’s Transportation Digest report.

“We remain mindful of shippers’ duty to manage tariff risk, but this surge is likely also being driven by strong consumer trends,” said Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s vice president and senior analyst. “With still-aggressive private fleet growth and a weak U.S. manufacturing sector, choppy results will likely continue, but the past few months suggest a bottoming process is underway. It won’t be linear, as record U.S. Class 8 tractor retail sales in September tell us capacity is still being added rather quickly, but capacity rebalancing will unfold over the course of next year.”

Buying intentions pulled back materially in September, falling to 48.3% of respondents planning to buy trucks in the next three months, from 53.9% in August (SA).

Regarding purchase intentions, Denoyer said, “The unsustainable pattern of low orders with long backlogs supporting record purchasing is set to end right around the new year, and notably it’s the private fleets, not the for-hire carriers, that are still adding capacity.”

The ACT Freight Forecast provides forecasts for the direction of volumes and contract rates quarterly through 2020 with three years of annual forecasts for the truckload, less-than-truckload and intermodal segments of the transportation industry. For the truckload spot market, the report provides forecasts for the next twelve months. The ACT Research Freight Forecast uses equipment capacity modeling and the firm’s economics expertise to provide unprecedented visibility for the future of freight rates, helping businesses in transportation and logistics management plan for the future with confidence.

ACT Research is a publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasts for the North America and China markets.

For-hire trucking executives interested in participating in the For-Hire Trucking Index should email trucks@actresearch.net.

 

 

 

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DAT Solutions says spot loads declined 5% for week ending October 22

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Chart shows rates for three segments of the trucking industry for the past four months. (Courtesy: DAT SOLUTIONS)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Despite higher freight volumes in several key markets, load postings fell 5% nationwide and truck posts dipped 1% during the week ending October 22, said DAT Solutions, which operates the industry’s largest electronic marketplace for spot truckload freight.

National average spot van, refrigerated, and flatbed rates were mostly unchanged compared to the previous week.

National Average Spot Rates for October (through October 22) include:

  • Van: $1.81 per mile, 3 cents lower than the September average
  • Flatbed: $2.20 per mile, unchanged compared to September
  • Reefer: $2.12 per mile, 4 cents lower than September

Van Trends

Spot van rates were higher on just 33 of DAT’s Top 100 largest van lanes by volume. Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles, three of the most important van markets, all showed higher volumes last week, although average outbound rates declined in each. The Los Angeles load-truck ratio hit 4.1 last Friday after starting the week at 2.5 (neutral) and dipping as low as 1.8 on Tuesday. It’s a sign that import traffic is moving eastbound.

Where rates were up: Volume from Seattle increased slightly and outbound rate gained 5 cents to $1.58 per mile. Key lanes included:

  • Seattle to Salt Lake City, up 7 cents to $1.94 per mile
  • Seattle to Los Angeles, up 6 cents to $1.36 per mile

Seattle is the only major van market where rates are higher over the past four weeks.

Reefer Trends

A combination of produce from Mexico and strong domestic agricultural shipments from California, Florida, Texas, and the Upper Midwest has pushed spot reefer volumes 9% higher over the past four weeks yet the national average rate has declined 3% at the same time.

Where rates were up: Reefer volumes from Nogales, Arizona, increased 68% compared to the previous week and the average outbound rate rose 7 cents to $1.75 per mile. McAllen, Texas, volume jumped 38% although the average outbound rate held at $1.95 per mile. Other high-volume markets last week also had plenty of trucks, which helped tame any changes in rates.

This weekly spot-rate snapshot is derived from DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. The RateView database is comprised of more than $65 billion in annualized freight payments. DAT load boards average 1.2 million load searches per business day.

For more information, visit www.dat.com/Trendlines.

 

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OIG to audit FMCSA’s oversight of compliance of state CDL programs

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In initiating the audit, the Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General not that there had been an 11% increase in fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

WASHINGTON — A fatal traffic accident in Massachusetts involving a tractor trailer has prompted the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Transportation to initiate an audit of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s review of state commercial driver’s license programs to determine whether those programs comply with CDL regulations.

The OIG Tuesday notified the FMCSA of its intent.

The notice said that earlier this year, a fatal crash involving a commercial driver led to an internal investigation by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) that found that RMV had not systematically processed out-of-state paper notifications of driver convictions in about five years.

The OIG said that investigation also identified a software flaw that hindered RMV’s ability to process out-of-state electronic notifications in a timely manner.

Consequently, this past summer, RMV issued thousands of CDL suspensions, based on previously unprocessed out-of-state notifications.

“Accordingly, our objective for this self-initiated audit is to assess FMCSA’s oversight of state driver’s licensing agencies’ actions to disqualify commercial drivers when warranted,” wrote Barry J. DeWeese, assistant Inspector General for surface transportation audits. “We will begin the audit immediately and coordinate with your audit liaison to schedule an entrance conference. We will conduct our audit at FMCSA.”

DeWeese noted that the FMCSA’s primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses, but said that in recent years, the number of large trucks and buses on the roads has increased.

Similarly, he said, according to FMCSA data as of June 2019, fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses have grown from 4,455 in 2013 to 4,949 in 2018, an 11% increase.

A spokesman for FMCSA said as it always does, the agency would cooperate with the OIG to complete the audit.

 

 

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