West European trailer market to increase 15 per cent in 2014

Things are looking up for the Western European commercial vehicle trailer market, which in turn is a good sign for the truck tyre business. Market analysts from consulting firm Clear International reports that trailer demand in the largest seven Western Europe economies is forecast to increase by 15 per cent during the course of 2014. According to the analysts, this is the first report in roughly two years that has not reported a downturn in the economic outlook.

Based on the first half of 2014 and the company’s experience of handling truck trailer demand data, the forecast assumes a strong end to the year in the last quarter of 2014, but even without this, the market would still be up 10 per cent for the year. indeed the research reports that in the first four months of 2014 alone, the market for trailers grew by 17.5 per cent.

Broken down by country the data is even more optimistic. According to the report, six of the Western European countries covered will have trailer market growth of over 20 per cent.  Furthermore five out of 15 countries will grow by more than 1,000 new trailers and the total growth over 2013 is expected to be 20,000 units. According to the research, two countries will see a fall in trailer registrations this year but that is partly due to the strength of their recovery since 2011.

Looking further ahead, the forecast for new trailer demand is that it will almost match the level it was in 2006 by 2016. Gary Beecroft, managing director of Clear added: “Trailer production, having fallen by 9.8 per cent from the 2011 level, will also have a double digit increase in 2014.”

Analysis of full-year 2013 trailer market performance

Clear reports that 2013 finished the year slightly below expectations, particularly in France and Germany, but Spain and Italy did a little better than was foreseen in terms of trailer demand. The collective market ended up down 0.6 per cent on 2012. However, in Belgium, France and Germany had already regained their pre-recession level of GDP during 2013 with the UK poised to join them in 2014. However, the Netherlands apparently won’t get there until 2017 and Italy and Spain will take even longer.

Even more importantly for trailer demand, the investment level in these seven largest economies will recover more slowly than the GDP figure. Belgium, the UK and Germany will be the first countries to match their pre-recession investment levels but that will not be until 2016. Nevertheless, investment levels will strengthen from 2014 giving trailer demand a boost.

Furthermore, demand for road transport in Western Europe, measured in tonne-km, which has been falling since 2008, may at last stabilise. The average fall for the Big 7 economies is 20 per cent since 2006.

The trailer parc (fleet size) is forecast to stabilise at the 2013 level. It has been falling since 2009. It must be emphasised that this has never happened since the heavy duty trailer was invented. The size of the parc has always increased every year even through recessions and slowdowns.

Despite the positive outlook for the period from 2014-2016 there will inevitably be another slowdown in the European economy in the future. In the latest forecast this is assumed to occur in 2018, although the report acknowledges that it might come one or even two years later.

All this is important because of the way trailers fit into the wider haulage environment – 77 per cent of all goods in Europe are moved by road and most of that proportion is transported on a trailer.

All the findings referred to here were previewed in June and are published in a report forecasting the demand for heavy goods trailers in Western Europe all the way to 2018.

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