As the production of Class 8 trucks evolves, so do the trailers they pull.
Both are bogged down by component supply shortages. Of course, there’s the lingering shortage of semiconductors that many expected to be memory now. But supply constraints only begin with the absence of electronic chips.
“While ‘semiconductors’ have become the generic benchmark for supply chain gaps, the reality is many parts continue to be affected,” said Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst at ACT Research.
The pandemic and the lingering impact of steel tariffs are two other obstacles.
“Even the February storm that hit Texas and shut down entire swathes of the US plastics industry for more than two quarters,” Vieth said. “Like the supply chains themselves, the problems are not just domestic and not just commercial vehicles.”
Trailers are less reliant on chips than power units, but they’re not immune.
“Clogged for several more months”
“The supply chain is expected to remain congested for several months and then gradually improve throughout the first half of next year,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR Transportation Intelligence.
FTR announced preliminary orders for 15,100-unit trailers in August, a rebound of 79% from July but a decline of 47% year-on-year. On a rolling 12-month basis, trailer orders total 341,000 units, more than the industry could produce if it had all the necessary parts and components.
Trailer makers started taking limited bookings in August, keeping a firm hand on schedules to prevent runaway growth in an already heavy order book.
“OEMs won’t be able to place all the orders they want in 2021,” Ake said. “These orders will continue until the first quarter of 2022. OEMs do not know when they can increase production, so there is huge uncertainty.”
The pent-up demand grows every month as fleets want more trailers to haul freight in a booming market.
“The fleets are in desperate need of more new trailers today, and they see an even greater need next year,” said Ake.
Connectivity technology beckons
Even as manufacturers resolve their current issues, connectivity for future trailer products is booming.
At the American Trucking Associations Technology & Maintenance Council last week in Cleveland, several technologies made their debut.
Hyundai Translead, the leading manufacturer of dry and refrigerated trailers in North America, has launched HT LinkSense, an open platform smart trailer solution that fully integrates with major telematics partners including Orbcomm, Phillips Connect, SkyBitz and Spireon.
“An open system provides a fully integrated solution to track and monitor trailer performance data in real time, enabling customers to increase their fleet productivity and operational efficiency,” said Sean Kenney, Director of Sales for Hyundai Translead.
HT LinkSense will debut on Hyundai Translead dry vans and later expand into refrigerated, flatbed, chassis and aftermarket products.
Great Dane Trailers didn’t wait for TMC to announce that its FleetPulse platform, the first intelligent trailer system developed by the trailer maker, would be standard on new Great Dane trailers with an integrated control network harness. (CAN) to prepare the equipment for future intelligent technology.
“One of the biggest barriers to the future of a connected vehicle is that the long trailer life can hamper the speed of innovation,” said Mike Molitor, executive director of business development at Great Dane. “By equipping every Great Dane trailer with a FleetPulse device and CAN harness, we believe fleets are in a better position to take advantage of future technologies. “
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