Most goods move about Europe by road, and most of that, not in a van or truck, but in a trailer. A semi-trailer can move up to 30 tonnes of goods at a time, twice that of the largest truck, and most vans hold a tonne or
less - all for the price of a Ford Focus.
The last severe downturn in the heavy goods trailer market was in 1993 - this one will be worse. In 92/93 the demand for trailers fell by 31% or 37,000 trailers. In 2008/9 the fall will be 48% or 100,000 trailers.
Back in 1993, the peak demand for trailers before the downturn was 120,000 units. This time the market reached 208,000 in 2007 and is forecast to fall to 108,000 in 2009.
Before 1993, peak trailer production was 126,000 per annum, but in 2007 production reached 292,000, which is forecast to fall to 107,000 in 2009, a fall of 63% or 185,000 trailers. The reason the fall in production is so
much larger than the fall in registrations is that the East European markets have collapsed as trailer finance dried up, killing export demand. As well as the huge drop in demand in Western Europe, there were an enormous number of unsold new trailers to be cleared away before production could be come
back into line with demand.
With the market for trailers having been strong for several years, many transport firms have lots of new equipment, which they can easily forgo renewing for a year or two. In many cases trailer production was down by 80% at the start of 2009.
Gary Beecroft, managing director of CLEAR said, "It had been hoped that there would be some sign of a recovery in the second half of 2009. In fact sales of trailers have worsened, and the hangover of unsold stock continued to hamper production levels throughout the year. There are clear signs that we have reached the bottom of the downturn, but it looks like we'll have to wait until March or April for a real improvement."
A recovery in investment is forecast in most West Europeans economies in the last quarter of 2010. Trailer demand is usually a leading indicator so we should see a recovery six months earlier.