A positive outlook in the industry: vehicle manufacturers are doing well, reporting high capacity utilisation and pressing ahead with market-driven innovations.

Following a successful year in 2018, the companies unanimously agree that good progress is being made this year too. The demand for tankers remains at and sometimes even above the high level of the previous year. The only downside: owing to the high capacity utilisation, customers will have to accept longer delivery times. Therefore, the companies recommend that anyone planning acquisition of a new tanker for the coming year should quickly place an order.

Source: Archive

Factors determining the market

Why then is the demand for new tankers as high in the absence of growth in the petroleum market as a whole? Structural developments among the medium-sized energy trading companies are considered a possible reason. Formerly, there were a large number of small family-run businesses that operated their tankers for well over ten years or gladly opted for a used tanker on cost grounds, but now company size in the trade is increasing through consolidation of the industry and so is that of the fleets. Their operators however replace their vehicles much more frequently. The trucks do not remain in service for longer than eight to ten years, usually less.

Another reason for purchasing new tankers arises when the vehicles from an acquired business fail to fit into the fleet and are therefore exchanged for new ones.

Ultimately, regulatory and technical developments contribute to the constant demand for tankers. When introducing the Euro 6 standard for example, the opinion among manufacturers is “It is often not worthwhile converting an old vehicle to meet the new standard”.

In recent years, the used vehicle market has increasingly shifted towards Eastern Europe. Even there, however, there is no longer a market for obsolete technology. This is also a possible explanation for the stable trend in sales of new vehicles. After approximately six years, the vehicles’ rate of depreciation constantly increases. Those still seeking to obtain a worthwhile return for their tankers on the used vehicle market will therefore regularly renew their fleets for this reason too.

An additional factor is that petroleum traders did not have a bad year economically in 2018; loans are cheap, leading to investment.

Technological trends

The weighting of semi-trailers, delivery vehicles and trailers markedly differs from one manufacturer to another – depending on company orientation and customer preferences. The semi-trailer occupies a forefront position among all those surveyed, since hauliers that renew their vehicles earlier than medium-sized companies, which mainly employ delivery vehicles, frequently used as tractor-trailers, operate the majority of vehicles. The typical petroleum trailer, however, apparently remains in service longer, since the share among all manufacturers is comparatively small.

There is a striking trend towards three-axle tractors and vehicles that can transport AdBlue in combination with conventional petroleum products. In the case of AdBlue, the demand for transport capacity is increasing overall in proportion to market development. A high potential for growth is still observed here.

Special vehicles for wood pellets, lubricants and airfield refuelling are still in demand, although manufacturers are positioned differently.

Whereas energy policy discussions have had hardly any impact on the tanker business up to now and conventional drive systems dominate the field, innovations indicate how the sector is already responding to social trends and related customer requirements. Special developments such as the electric feed pump for heating oil or fuel delivery from Esterer are finding their way on to the market.

At Schrader, there are interesting approaches towards fully electrified airfield vehicles.

We will be further reporting on both in due course.

Export remains important

The export share has changed little among the vehicle manufacturers in comparison to the previous years, with foreign trade being a mainstay in all companies that in some cases accounts for 50 per cent of sales. As the manufacturers report, declining regions are generally offset by growing markets in other countries.