Equipment RentalThe rise of new and cutting-edge technology is advancing construction equipment, allowing for owners and operators to gain ready access to the tools they need to work efficiently and effectively. 

Technology is also having a transformative impact on the rental market, giving contractors new and unique opportunities to affect their businesses. 

“Technology plays a crucial rule in the cab by making machines and operators work more efficiently,” said Kevin Forestell, CEO of DOZR, an online heavy equipment marketplace. “There is also a big safety factor that technology affects—the knowledge operators have about their machine, the safer they can work on the job.”

It's a fact that is true of both equipment that is owned and rented. In addition, as of today, new rental machines offer new capabilities to positively impact both efficiency and safety at the construction jobsite.

Technology's Role in Equipment Rentals

The benefits of renting equipment today are numerous. And, according to Forestell, there are six key reasons construction contractors are doing so:

  • Lack of long-term commitments
  • Underutilization
  • No equipment maintenance or repair costs
  • Additional job opportunities
  • No equipment storage issues
  • No transportation challenges

However, one of the biggest trends today is that technology can make equipment more expensive, sometimes significantly so. As a result, renting may be a more cost-effective option for many construction companies to leverage the technology, without making a large upfront investment.

“Renting also helps operators to try out new technology they aren’t using or don’t need for every job,” said Forestell.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of equipment rental, though, is the ability to test out new technology as soon as it becomes available, said Dustin Barden, global account manager for Ditch Witch, a subsidiary of Charles Machine Works, which is a provider of underground utility construction equipment. 

“When renting, the competitiveness of the rental industry has driven companies to have new fleets with the newest features,” said Barden. “As a rental customer, (they) will have the option of trying the newest models each time (they) rent equipment.”

According to Barden, by testing out the features and using the latest technology while renting, an equipment operator is capable of becoming more informed should he or she ever decide to own that type of equipment.

Equipment continues to evolve in a number of different ways. For example, enclosed cabs continue to change with time and are becoming more sophisticated due to new technology integrations. Most of today’s cabs feature optimized operator interfaces, including LED screens to improve visibility related to machine functions and diagnostics.

Furhermore, there is a greater drive to improve the environmental impact of equipment—primarily using fewer resources to keep equipment running. Other advancements are often driven by the needs of the business, which can include miniaturization and creating progressive and more technologically advanced machines.

“Miniaturization is important as machines need to become more nimble and maneuverable for smaller job sites,” said Josh Nickell, director of global strategy, Point of Rental, a provider of smart rental software. “Redevelopment is done in tighter quarters than new development, and smaller versions of large machines are able to take care of business in places the large machines can’t. Smaller equipment is also easier to transport and use fewer resources.”

Furthermore, technology advancements in machines can take complex tasks and turn them into simple and safe ones, and can take repetitive and uninteresting tasks and automate them. This ultimately frees up employees for work elsewhere on the site or can reduce the number of people needed overall.

RentalWhat Contractors Are Thinking When Considering a Purchase

When it comes time to decide whether to rent or buy construction equipment, a number of critical factors come into play for contractors. According to Barden, the most obvious difference is the financial implication of owning versus renting equipment.

“Owning equipment comes with maintenance costs, tax implications, as well as insurance costs,” he said. “If the equipment will be used for a short-term project or infrequently, it may make sense to rent a machine and utilize capital in other areas for growth.”

Another notable difference is the job flexibility of a rental unit. Construction companies will be able to find new opportunities and flexibility in jobs with the ability to rent different units instead of having one machine for every job.

“By renting equipment, there is then the ability to upsize or downsize equipment based on the need of each job site and project,” added Barden.

For many construction companies, the decisions to rent or buy depends on the type of construction equipment that is going to be used on projects.

Said Barden, equipment such as a walk-behind trencher or mini skid steers are great to include within a rental fleet because it offers contractors the opportunity to use the machine for its intended use without having to capitalize a purchase. He added that larger horsepower trenchers and directional drills are sometimes purchased on a rent-to-own contract, as it allows a construction company the opportunity to build equity into the purchase of a piece of equipment.

Greg Wolfe, director of training for Ditch Witch, said that many rental operators and landscape operators are increasingly turning to mini skid steer machines for use on a variety of landscape and irrigation jobs.

“Advancements in today’s units have improved maneuverability to support smaller and tighter spaces, job site visibility, and power,” added Wolfe. 

In the end, new technologies are making renting construction equipment a more appealing option with time —and it's a trend could continue in the years ahead.

Nickell of Point of Rental, added, “While machinery becoming more autonomous makes it easier to operate, it increases the complexity of maintenance and repair process. Letting rental companies manage maintenance reduces the need to increase the amount of training for mechanics, and it reduces downtime when a replacement is needed.”

For the construction industry, the decision to rent or buy ultimately comes down to needs on a project, but the technology is beginning to factor into the decision-making process.

This article appeared in a recent edition of the CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365 newsletter.

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