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News

Supply-Chain Snarls Hit Production of Trailers Needed to Haul Goods
Shortages of parts and labor are crimping production at truck-trailer factories, undercutting trucking companies’ efforts to expand their capacity in a tight freight transport market.

Manufacturers were producing 25% more dry vans—the most common type of semitrailers used to haul goods—in 2019 than they are now, and industry turnaround times for orders now stretch as long as eight months after peaking at 13 months earlier this year, according to transportation data provider ACT Research.

Lafayette, Ind.-based equipment maker Wabash National Corp. expects to produce about 25% fewer trailers this year than it did before the pandemic because of shortages of everything from foam insulation to suspension components and taillight wiring.

Chief Financial Officer Mike Pettit said demand is the highest it has been in the company’s history. Wabash’s backlog of orders for trailers and some other products rose to more than $2.3 billion as of Nov. 30, according to a Wednesday investor presentation. The company is passing along to its customers higher costs for materials such as steel, which Mr. Pettit said quadrupled in price between a low point in August 2020 and the third quarter of 2021.

The factory backups are driving down U.S. trailer orders as transportation equipment manufacturers put a lid on sales because their production slots are filled deep into 2022. The number of October orders plunged about 69% compared with the same month in 2020, when trucking companies were racing to expand capacity as the U.S. economy emerged from pandemic lockdowns, according to ACT. Trucking fleets ordered about 17,400 trailers from U.S. manufacturers in October, down more than 38% from September.

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