Since the last report from Clear International, trailer market consultants, in May 2022 the War in Ukraine and the cost of energy plus general price inflation have replaced the Covid-19 as the principal threats to growth in trailer demand. Inflation has risen to over 10% and interest rates have increased again and again.
Economic forecasts for countries in Western Europe took quite a hit in 2022. As a result the forecasts for trailer demand in 2023 and subsequent years have been scaled back by over 10,000 units. However, 2022 proved resilient as the year progressed, with West European trailer demand remaining somewhat insulated from the impact of the war in Ukraine.
Economic forecasts for 2023 and beyond have now stabilised and in some cases improved slightly from where they were in November.
Increased costs caused by high inflation and interest rates, combined with some continued problems with sourcing vehicle parts are making manufacturing difficult. A European war plus a difficult economic situation cannot help but dent business confidence and reduce companies’ willingness to invest in new transport equipment.
CLEAR envisages 10.4% fall in trailer demand in 2023. Subsequent growth in the forecast period will bring the sales level back to that of 2022 by 2025. The 2024-25 period is expected to be more positive in terms of both the West European economy and trailer registration growth.
Production of trailers was at the third highest level on record in 2018 (though well short of the 2007 figure). The total fall in registrations from 2018 to 2020 was 23% and the fall in production was 32%, partly due to a large fall in German trailer exports.
Growth in production in 2024 and 2025 will bring the level back to that seen in 2019 and 2022.
The trailer parc (fleet size) grew by 1.5% in 2022. It will grow by 1.1% on average in the forecast period which represents steady if unspectacular growth.
The West European trade in goods during 2021 gave another surprise. Trade was down only 3% in 2020 Q4 (measured in €uros). This was despite difficulties in moving goods between the UK and the EU as a result of Brexit. For the year 2020 trade was down 10%. However, trade in 2021 Q4 set a new record as did the figures for 2022 Q3, when there was a surprisingly large jump leading to an increase of 27% year on year – possibly related to the cost of gas imports.
The forecast period from 2023 to 2027 will be a time of declining replacement demand for trailers as a result of low trailer registrations in the 2009 to 2014 period. Therefore, the forecast growth in trailer demand will call for significant levels of investment in new trailers over and above the replacement level.
The report outlines when, where and how quickly the trailer market will develop through to 2027.