Net trailer orders for January slid 4 percent from December, but the 32,800 units booked last month – the third consecutive month for “very strong” orders, according to FTR – was 86 percent more than the same month last year.

“It appears the trailer order cycle has shifted back a few months this year,” says Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles. “Instead of starting in September or October, the order season began in November.”

Some uncertainty over the presidential election, Ake says, is probably at least one reason for January’s unusually high order book. But he adds business confidence is also running high, “so we still got our traditional run of three months of strong orders, it just came later than typical.”

Dry van orders skyrocketed 146 percent year-over-year. ACT Research data suggests dry van net orders were reported at 25,500 units, with seasonal adjustment making January the best month since September 2015.

Reefers orders slowed according to FTR, down 52 percent from December.

Trailer orders have totaled 234,000 units for the past 12 months.

While production started the year off weaker, it was up 8 percent over December and backlogs jumped for the third straight month in January.

“While 2017 order season timing has lagged, recent order activity indicates a substantive, positive change in fleet confidence,” adds Frank Maly, director, CV Transportation Analysis and Research at ACT. “Later trailer order commitments may portend somewhat later delivery dates, more in line with reports of a ‘back loading’ of available 2017 C8 build slots.”

“This is another good sign for trucking, freight and the economy for 2017,” Ake says. “Fleets are showing confidence in the market by placing a strong number of requirement orders for the year. These are not all replacement orders, so some fleets are expecting to expand sometime this year. The strength is centered on dry vans, however. The vocational segments have bottomed out, and have not really began a recovery, very similar to Class 8 trucks.”