For the most part, fleet buyers today buy and hold a truck for approximately three to five years, sell the truck into the secondary market, and upgrade to newer models with updated technology and features. This trade cycle is based on many factors including existing warranty coverage, increasing costs of repairs and maintenance, vehicle uptime degradation, and the condition of the truck, including repairs to cab interiors. Fleets also use similar considerations when deciding when to replace their trailers, but trailers have a different responsibility than the power units do, so the trade cycle varies accordingly. A general rule of thumb for truck and tractor replacement is every 500,000 miles. For trucks, depending on the application this could be three-five years, but trailers, with a trailer-to-tractor ratio of 3:1, usually are traded every 12 years or so. Additionally, replacement for trailers will vary by application or use. Dry vans, for example, will likely be traded more often than a more specialized trailer, like a tanker.
The National Private Truck Council (NPTC) shows 2022 trade cycles for trailers are up slightly, with 12.6 years for dry vans, 12.8 for reefers, 17.5 for flats, and 18 for bulk tanks. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) shows the overall average trade cycle in 2021 was 15.4 years. Life cycle, or replacement, is determined by the customer, often by a set rotation, but sometimes determined by financing rather than equipment needs. Over-the-road trailers trade, on average, five-seven years because they're used more often. A grocery or private fleet might keep their trailers longer, like 20-25 years. It all depends on the duty cycle and how freight is loaded into the trailer. Owner- operators may trade when the warranty expires in five years, but most trade after 20 years. Large fleets are more on a three-, five-, or seven-year cycle