The used trailer market is estimated to be worth around $3 billion a year in sales, with approximately 400,000 units changing hands. The bulk of the used trailer market comprises platform trailers, refrigerated vans, tanker trailers and dry freight vans. With trailers having a useful working life of twenty years, but large national outfits swapping out used trailers for new due to image issues, there is usually a healthy supply of secondhand trailers available.
The typical life of a trailer follows a predictable, 5-year resale pattern: purchased new by a national carrier, sold to a regional carrier, then on to a local hauler and finally sold for storage use as permanent retirement. Different trailer units, especially specialized units will follow slightly different paths, largely depending on the specialization and the industry within which they are used.
For buyers of used trailer units, there are several major sources, however dealerships, whether tied or not dominate the market.
While the hundred or so major manufacturers sell around 250,000 new trailer units each year, they have been forced by market conditions to start cutting back elsewhere. Trailer manufacturers have outsourced used equipment sales to dealers or less frequently, to franchise partners, so they are not such a source as they once were.
Public & Private Carriers
Typically, only the largest trucking companies sell their own used equipment; most public carriers will outsource the sale of used trailers to dealers and auction houses. The reason for this is because fleet manager’s performance is based upon the ability of the trucking fleet to move freight, not on resale values or ability to recoup initial investment.
Private carriers are also likely to involve dealers in the disposal of used trailers and equipment. Private carriers are typically the in-house logistics division to allow their parent to control freight and trucking services, and again freight performance is more important than generating profit or revenues from used trailer sales.
Banks and Finance Companies
Many trailers are leased, however there will be times when repossession occurs which leaves the bank holding the trailer. In the event of repossession due to a default on the lease, the trailer unit will usually be sold on to dealers or through auction houses.
Dealers, like these, may be part of a tied franchise, untied franchise or independent. They are the major suppliers to the trucker for used trailer equipment and there are well over 1,500 in the country.