As utility contractors know, equipment rental is a small but central part of any project. If a critical piece of equipment is not available, it can lead to idle workers, and send a project off-schedule or off-budget.
Most contractors plan on handling project requirements with a mixed fleet of owned and rented equipment. When renting, contractors pay only for the equipment they need, at the time they need it. Rental contract periods provide the flexibility to arrange access to the right equipment for any length of time, which can be ideal for short-term or periodic use.
Here are three steps that contractors can take to arrive at a business-centric approach to rental equipment assessments.
1. Address the “What, Where and When” of Equipment Needs
When assessing rental providers, the evaluation should include these basics: Can the rental company provide the equipment most likely to be needed for core projects? How deep is their core fleet? Will availability be an issue during busy seasons? Can they reliably deliver the equipment to the locales where it’s needed? What kind of shape is the equipment in?
Having easy access – or not – to many different types of equipment can have a major impact on construction and excavation success. Almost every rental company has a broader inventory of equipment than a single contractor could reasonably own, including attachments to tailor gear for specific tasks. But only quality rental providers invest in continual fleet upgrades, making it easier for contractors to keep pace with compliances and environmental standards.
Planned, unplanned and seasonal pressures all need to be dealt with flawlessly in order to maintain project productivity. Most rental providers can deliver equipment on schedule according to plan. While that’s useful, it’s only table-stakes. A contractor needs to explore whether their rental provider is responsive to unexpected needs on short notice, such as disaster response or power outages.
Furthermore, once projects are up and running, it becomes more difficult to predict equipment needs in advance. This has become more of an issue in today’s construction landscape, as more mid-sized contractors take on work at simultaneous jobsites in different locales. It can be costly to manage owned equipment over long distances; even a small delay can have a negative ripple effect. Physical proximity to rental fleet and maintenance means a more immediate response.
2. Tackle Specialty Needs
A rental supplier’s fleet range should also include specialized equipment – items outside of core construction stock. While these machines are not needed for all projects, they are often critical to productivity.
Examples of specialty solutions include pumps, filtration systems, temporary heat and cooling, and in-ground protective equipment for excavations and trenches, such as shields, shoring and bracing in both manufactured systems and site-specific engineered solutions. As with core rental fleet, the deeper the specialty rental fleet range, the more options a contractor has to manage quality, production and safety.
3. Look Beyond Equipment
In addition, when assessing rental providers, contractors should look for capabilities beyond equipment. Value-added attributes, such as safety and training, can be extremely important. When arranging training for workers, look for dedicated resources and experienced instructors, as well as support outside the classroom. Jobsite safety and productivity are constant challenges; lectures with minimal engagement are not enough.
The risk presented by an unsafe jobsite can cost a great deal in time and money. Courses such as excavation safety for competent persons, confined space entry, fall protection and equipment operator certifications can significantly reduce that risk. Beyond professional training, a rental company should be able to provide on-site consultation, engineered designs for complex solutions and assistance with regulatory compliances, all of which reduce risk.
Align Strategic Partnerships
Many of today’s jobsites are challenging, highly complex and dynamic spaces. A contractor’s best strategy can be to form rental partnerships that cut through the complexity and provide solutions to get the job done safely, on plan. By doing some assessments up front, and aligning equipment resources with organizational goals, you can create the ultimate business advantage.
Gregg Christensen is vice president, national accounts at United Rentals. He has been in the equipment rental industry for more than 30 years and has served in a number of sales and management positions. Christensen joined United Rentals in 2008 as a district manager, and most recently served as the regional sales and marketing director for the company’s south region. Christensen holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida Southern College. Visit unitedrentals.com.