We’re now more than two years removed from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the delays and price increases in the trailer industry show no signs of letting up. In fact, they’re still going in the wrong direction.
Customers want their trailers now – and we can’t blame them!
Unfortunately, we must continually break the news to them that the trailer that was supposed to be done soon is now going to take another few months.
Not only is that not conducive to running a business, but it’s demoralizing for everyone involved. For our salesmen and for the customer.
As a trailer dealer, we’re the middleman between the customer and the manufacturer. When we take an order, we give the customer an estimated build time based on what our manufacturers are telling us at the time. We usually give a range, such as 8 to 10 months.
The natural tendency for both parties is to hope for the shorter timeframe, but the reality is that the longer timeframe has proven to be much more realistic.
However, what has been happening over the course of that timeframe?
Workers are leaving the labor force, materials are becoming more scarce (and thus, more expensive), fuel prices are skyrocketing, there is a lack of drivers to deliver products and materials, and many manufacturers have stopped building custom trailers altogether (forcing more strain on those that still do).
On top of all of that, demand for trailers hasn’t slowed down.
For every order we take from a customer, other dealers are doing the same. So a manufacturer that builds for, say, a dozen dealers, gets dozens and dozens of new orders added to the production que each day.
When a delay inevitably happens due to a missing part, the ripple effect is felt by every trailer in que, even if at that specific point in time the manufacturer can’t accurately forecast the delay months down the road.
In addition, costs remain high, but it doesn’t only affect the customer.
Most trailers cost nearly double what they cost pre-Covid. And you know what? We aren’t making any more money on them. In fact, in many cases we’re making less because prices increase in between the time the customer orders the trailer and the manufacturer builds it.
Take ATC, for example. They are issuing price increases roughly every three months and most pricing isn’t grandfathered in even if the order was placed under the previous pricing. That means we have to eat the cost of those increases.
Other manufacturers we work with also issue price increases as needed.
Before you go placing all the blame on the manufacturers, that’s not at all what we’re saying. We may be the middleman between you and them, but they are the middleman between you, us, and the suppliers.
Due to the supply chain crisis, many suppliers are allocating materials, and those with more buying power receive more supply. Unfortunately, that results in the RV industry, which is booming since Covid started, often gets priority over the trailer industry.
Rather than the steady supply of materials they were used to, manufacturers now sometimes don’t even know when they will get their next delivery until it actually shows up. Sometimes they don’t even know what materials they will get until the next delivery actually shows up. Maybe they only receive black aluminum on a delivery, which means all non-black trailers scheduled must be delayed until they receive another shipment of white, silver, etc.
You can imagine how hard that makes it to finish trailers on time and predict lead times.
Additionally, trailer manufacturers are having trouble keeping their labor force over the past two-plus years. Many of their trailer builders have been jumping over to the RV industry that can pay them significantly more and offer enticing signing bonuses.
So not only are the manufacturers dealing with missing parts and growing order queues, but they are also working short-handed or constantly trying to hire and train new workers, which also slows down the process.
Far too often over the past few months, we’ve had to have the difficult conversations with our customers and tell them their trailer won’t be finished for a few more months. We fully understand the disappointment this causes, especially since most of these trailers are for customer businesses. But the source of these delays goes far beyond us.
We always try to be open and honest with our customers, which is why we have been posting these updates every few months for the past two years. How many other dealers, manufacturers, or trailer industry sources have you seen post even one open and honest update about the state of the industry? Let alone one every few months.
But for the reasons mentioned above, we don’t always know about a delay on a specific trailer until our manufacturer tells us. And there are a lot of things out of the manufacturer’s control that cause delays.
We don’t play games. We don’t try to lead customers on under false pretenses. Unfortunately, until the supply chain catches up, it’s something that everyone involved – from suppliers to manufacturers to dealers to customers – are going to have to deal with.
The quickest way to get a trailer is to buy a stock trailer that we have on our lot.
Of course, stock trailers don't always meet the needs of those who need something more custom. We have fabrication capabilities to cut vending windows, install graphic wraps, and more, so we'll always explore the best option available to meet your needs. But sometimes there is no choice but to wait for the trailer to be built.