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By Duane Craig
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From excavators to compactors, construction equipment of all types makes an increasingly large footprint on jobsites as well as project budgets. Here are tactics for deciding between buying or renting, and for managing these assets effectively once they are on the job.
Owning equipment scores high marks with companies that want maximum control. By owning, you decide not only what brand and features you get, but also the machine's availability for whatever use you want. Some companies, depending on their financial situation, might also benefit from the tax advantages of ownership. And, selling the equipment when you upgrade or no longer need it helps to recoup some of your operating and maintenance costs. If you buy a highly versatile machine, let's say a skid steer loader with multiple attachments, and you have a pipeline of continuing work for it, it is most likely the best option for you. Buying is also a logical decision for companies that require specialized equipment to deliver their core services, such as asphalt chippers for paving companies and paint sprayers for painting companies.
On the other hand, renting is incredibly popular these days. First of all, there is a big variety of equipment you can now rent. Also, contractors got a lot of experience with renting during the most recent recession. Many were hesitant to invest in ownership during the uncertain economic times and preferred the flexibility that renting offered.
When you rent, you avoid all the costs of owning, including maintenance and storage. You can also get machines that fit the particular job rather than adapting machines to the job. Rental equipment will most likely be new enough to feature technologies that improve operation, fuel efficiency, and safety. And, equipment rental companies have streamlined their operations to provide you with deeper insights on your equipment use, as well as simplified ordering, easy account management, and robust reporting.
Make your rent/buy decisions for each equipment item by analyzing its past use and anticipated use. The more you'll use it, the more likely you'll come out better with a purchase. Here are things to consider to get the most from your equipment rentals and purchases.
Make Proper Use and Proper Care High Priorities
Equipment here includes all types of machines, not just backhoes and dump trucks. Jumping jack and plate compactors, generators, water pumps and other small equipment count, too. When you hire heavy equipment operators, you no doubt have a process to confirm they know what they are doing.
Unfortunately, when it comes to small equipment, that's often not the case. People should know how to use and maintain these items as well. You don't need to have a formal training program, but you should have ways to:
While formal training for each new employee is optimum, you can also improve equipment care, task results, and safety by having one or two people manage small pieces of equipment. Do spot training as needed. People who work in construction often have very high electro-mechanical aptitudes so it's not uncommon for them to feel confident they can "figure out" how to operate anything. That's why they are often the first ones to throw away the instruction sheet and try to wing it. This eventually creates headaches for you when the equipment won't start because someone uses the wrong fuel or someone operating a compactor gets too close to a new curb and takes a chunk out of it. So, short circuit equipment problems by appointing an expert to train employees on using and maintaining equipment. And, make sure your expert knows what they're doing, and that they train all people in the same way.
Theft steals more than just the equipment. You also lose productivity, face higher insurance premiums, and miss out on profits. Consider using these security tactics.
Where practical, use anti-theft and tracking devices. Wheel locks, engine kill switches, ignition locks and other hidden devices can help to slow down or prevent thefts. Many manufacturers offer tracking devices included with their telematics packages, and there are third-party options too, like LoJack.
Navigating the Heavy Equipment Rental Process
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