Outlook for heavy trailer sales in Eastern Europe improves – Clear International

*Impact of the war in Ukraine is less severe than was expected at the start of the year

The most significant change in the East European Trailer Market in 2023 has been the large increase in demand for new trailers in Turkey, according to trailer industry analysists, Clear International, which has just issued its October 2023 forecast for the East European Heavy Trailer Market.

“The main driver has been the runaway inflation which has been as high as 70 percent. Rather than watch their cash in the bank devalue on a daily basis, businesses have invested in assets that will retain some value including both trailers and trucks,” explained Gary Beecroft, MD., Clear International.

As a result the trailer market in Turkey is likely to finish the year up by at least 50% over 2022, which itself was a record year for registrations. This will make Turkey the largest market for trailers in Eastern Europe in 2023. Turkey had relatively low demand for trucks and trailers in 2016-20, so a large amount of catch-up demand had accumulated.

2022 saw a 0.2% fall in trailer demand in the region due to very mixed outcomes for different countries. Markets most affected by the war in Ukraine, which included Russia and Belarus, had substantial falls in registrations. Poland also had a large fall in sales but that was due to having record demand for trailers in 2021, which took registrations to an unsustainable level. Other countries had double digit percentage growth.

The prognosis for the 2023-2027 period has been upgraded in every year, in particular within Turkey, Russia and Poland.

Russia, the largest trailer market in Eastern Europe until 2010, suffered a 50% fall in demand between 2011 and 2015, largely as a consequence of the annexation of the Crimea, but had an astonishing recovery in 2017/18, and was the largest market once again in 2019-20. Russia’s commercial vehicle market has not suffered as much as was expected as a result of the war in Ukraine. It is now sourcing vehicles from China which previously would have been imported from Europe, but are no longer available as a result of sanctions.

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 had been continuous since 2000. There was 5.6% growth in demand in 2019 but this was mostly due to international activity in Poland and Lithuania. There was further growth of 3.2% and 8.0% in 2020 and 2021 respectively, and 1.2% growth in 2022. Effectively, some of the demand for transport has transferred from Western to Eastern Europe.

“The Russian intervention in Ukraine will result in its trailer market falling back by 28%. The sanctions imposed on Russia (again) are having a real effect. In contrast, Poland, Turkey and Lithuania have strong markets in the post-covid period.”

The report outlines when, where and how quickly the trailer market will develop through to 2027.