Analyst anticipates market shift for heavy trailers in Eastern Europe

Transport consulting group, CLEAR International, has released its September 2020 forecast for the East European heavy trailer market.

Demand for trailers grew by 4.4 per cent in Eastern Europe in 2018 then fell by 12.7 per cent in 2019 as evidence of a cyclical downturn became more apparent. At the beginning of 2020 another modest decline in trailer demand was forecast for Eastern Europe but the outlook quickly worsened as the Covid-19 pandemic started to close down parts of the economy. A reduction of new trailer registrations of 24.5 per cent if now forecast for 2020, and that figure assumes that the second wave of the virus, which is already in evidence, is at least contained.

Trailer sales in 2018 were the third highest on record, only surpassed in 2007 and 2008. The forecast now is that registrations of new trailers will not match the 2007/8 level until after 2024 but will surpass the 2018 level in that year.

However, the short term outlook is anything but positive according to CLEAR International. Demand for both trailers and trucks has continued to plunge in 2020. The East European trailer demand forecast for the five year period from 2020 to 2024 has been reduced by 52,000 trailers with the largest markets of Turkey, Poland and Russia accounting for over 60 per cent of that reduction. The largest fall in demand will occur in Poland – a country that was a model of stability in the 2009 Global Financial Crisis – Poland was the only country in Europe not to have a recession in that year.

Russia, the largest trailer market in Eastern Europe until 2010, suffered a 50 per cent fall in demand between 2011 and 2015, but had an astonishing recovery in 2017/18 and is now the largest market once again. Turkish demand reached a new low in 2019 but recovery has already begun, though it will remain in third place behind Poland until the end of the forecast period.

Whereas the demand for road transport (measured in tonne-km) in Western Europe has yet to recover to the levels that were typical before the 2009 recession, in Eastern Europe both domestic and international road transport demand has continued to grow every year. Every year that is until 2018 when growth stalled. Slowdowns in Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Poland and Hungary were enough to halt the growth which has been continuous since 2000. There was some growth in demand in 2019 but this was mostly due to international activity in Poland and Lithuania and it will not be sustained into 2020.

“Turkey will be the only country in Eastern Europe to see any growth in trailer demand in 2020 but it is recovering from a very low base,” said CLEAR International Managing Director, Gary Beecroft.

“Russia will have the smallest decline in the region,” he said. “Other countries will see falls of between 15 per cent and 50 per cent.”

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