Rental Industry Preps, Respond To Hurricane Disasters

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | November 2008 Vol. 63 No. 11

"The second wave of requests is generally for equipment to move debris and reclaim damaged areas: backhoes, excavators with thumbs, boom lifts, loaders with grapple buckets, water trucks and all types of forklifts. We also stage smaller equipment such as chain saws, brush chippers, pallet jacks and pumps."

In the first weeks after Ike's landfall, United Rentals shipped more than 70 truckloads of equipment to the hardest hit parts of the Gulf Coast. More equipment has arrived since then.

"In fact, we have a continuous sourcing process going on to support our customers," Kneeland continues. "United Rentals has a preferred arrangement with a national trucking company, so we can move equipment quickly seven days a week. If we have equipment orders in the pipeline with suppliers, we'll often work with them to get the fulfillment expedited. We also stage contractor supplies in our warehouses, and put those vendors on alert."

Extra support

Employees from adjacent districts can deliver equipment to the disaster area as soon as it is safe to be on the roads.

"Occasionally, in extreme situations, we have had employees from branches in other parts of the country drive truckloads of equipment to the disaster area," Kneeland continues. "The driver and truck may stay on for a while at the destination to help out. That happened after Katrina."

Much of the rental equipment sent to the Gulf likely will remain in use there for a while.

How long is hard to predict, says Kneeland.

"Every storm is different," he says. "Demand for generators obviously starts to tail off after power and basic services are restored; the same is true of light towers, although to a lesser degree. Equipment used in clearing up debris and reconstruction could be needed for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months or even longer. It's common to see a shift toward longer term rentals within the affected areas, but the disaster itself has no impact on our rate structure or account arrangements."

Kneeland says the size of United Rentals enables the company to respond to emergency needs following disasters of any intensity.

"We have the ability," he explains "to pull a lot of resources together very quickly. Not just drivers, equipment and supplies, but also service techs for site calls, a 24 hour call center, even the number of delivery vehicles we're able to put on the road – it adds up to a multitude of resources that can be deployed from over 650 locations."

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