If you’ve done any traveling of late, you may have noticed an increase in truck traffic on the nation’s roadways. It is not an illusion. Heavy duty truck traffic is up and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal said that fleet owners in February ordered some 40,200 Class B trucks in February. These are the heavy duty trucks used for long-hauls. That is a whopping 76% jump when you compare it to February a year ago. Overall, truckload freight is predicted to increase by about 4% in 2018.
We are already seeing the ramifications in not only increasing traffic but in increasing freight prices. There is a well-documented truck driver shortage. As an OEM supplier to the truck trailer industry, we too, are seeing an uptick in transportation-related fabricated metal orders.
Why are these truck trailer orders increasing? The answer is pretty simple. The #1 reason truck trailer production orders are increasing is because demand in the trucking industry is increasing. The “whys” of this increase in demand are a bit more complicated.
The Role of E-Commerce
Not only has online shopping impacted bricks and mortar stores, it is having a dramatic impact on trucking. Shopping online occurs 24-hours a day each and every day of the year. A significant part of the online shopping experience is based on how quickly products are shipped and received. This has led to an increase in “Less Than Load” (LTL) truck trailer shipments to facilitate faster delivery times. As larger items like appliances and furniture are being purchased online, larger truck trailers are finding their way onto neighborhood streets. The Department of Transportation (DOT) predicts that by 2040, freight volume in the country will increase by 45%, largely fueled by online shopping.
Built Up Demand and an Improving Economy
February 2018’s truck orders were the highest since 2006, prior to the Great Recession. Up to now, many carriers have been reluctant to add to or upgrade their fleets. The same can be said of truck trailers. As the trucking outlook remains robust, more companies are making long-overdue upgrades which are also fueling truck trailer production.
Newer Trailer Designs Are More Fuel Efficient
While the EPA suspended mandating more fuel-efficient designs that were to be enforced this year, the fact is newer truck trailer designs reduce the use of fuel, and therefore costs. While fuel savings alone may not be worth investing in new truck trailers, they are certainly another factor contributing to the reasons companies are considering upgrades, and thus increasing production.
While the trucking industry certainly has its challenges ahead, demand continues to be strong for both truck and truck trailer sales. Those involved have reasons to be optimistic. As an OEM supplier to the truck trailer industry, we count ourselves among those.