The West European trailer market finished 2011 up 27.2 per cent over the level of 2010, UK consulting group CLEAR reports. “This means that there was a 40.7 per cent increase over the low demand level of 2009, at the bottom of the recession. However, the trailer market has only recovered to the level of 2003, which itself was at the bottom of a mild downturn,” says Gary Beecroft, managing director of CLEAR.
“2012 will not provide any growth – in fact there will be a small drop in the demand for new trailers – thanks to the continuing euro-zone debt crisis and the resultant fall in business confidence,” he concludes. “The economic outlook for 2012 has been downgraded in recent months in every country of the region. Both GDP and business investment growth will fall below 1 per cent in most countries.”
Looking further forward, there are grounds for optimism in 2013/14. Beecroft comments, “Trailer demand has been well below the long-term trend level since 2009. Even with a good level of growth in 2013/14 we will only just get back to trend at the end of 2014.”
In the meantime, a backlog of replacement demand is building. Because the level of new trailer sales is still low, the trailer parc (fleet size) is both ageing and shrinking. Eventually it becomes uneconomic to keep running old equipment, which should lead to increased demand for new vehicles.
77 per cent of goods in Europe are moved by road and most of that proportion is transported on a trailer pulled by a truck. The last severe downturn in the heavy goods trailer market was in 1993 – but 2009 was worse. In 92/93 the demand for trailers fell by 31 per cent or 37,000 trailers. In 2008/9 the fall was 51% or 107,000 trailers. The fall in trailer production was worse as exports fell faster than domestic demand plus there was a massive destocking of finished vehicles.