Underground Rental Market Bounces Back Strong

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | August 2013, Vol. 68 No. 8
The American Rental Association

“Commercial and industrial was strong in 2012, but has leveled off this year. It still is good and is expected to improve soon. Work in gas shale fields also is driving rentals of pumps and other equipment. As industrial and construction markets continue to improve, rental will see further growth from a larger share of the equipment market, leading to double-digit revenue gains by 2014.”

Additional details about markets for rentals of specific types of underground construction equipment are provided by United Rentals and Sunbelt Rentals.

“The investment in infrastructure is still slower than it should be, due to fiscal stress at the local, state and federal levels,” says Brett Sondergard, sales and marketing director for United Rentals Trench Safety. “However, this is being offset by an uptick in gas distribution repair, upstream oil and gas pipelines and gas transmission pipeline activity.”

It is also the high season for road and bridge work in many parts of the country, which often requires the rerouting of utility lines to accommodate expanded roadways,

“All of this contributes to a steady pipeline of project-based trench safety activity that's in line with the construction recovery as a whole -- that is, a moderate but genuine improvement,” Sondergard concludes.

Strong recovery
Ladd Gould, strategic account manager for Sunbelt Rentals, describes the equipment rental market as “coming back strong.” At the end of Sunbelt’s fiscal year in June, Gould says revenues were up 21 percent, posting the company’s strongest growth in years.

“Currently,” he continues, “we are seeing a higher utilization on what we call the general rental lines: skid-steers, backhoes, compressors and small pumps. In addition, our specialty business has been seeing an increase in large pumping projects and big air compressor rentals.

“We rent compact walk-along trenchers and 45 horsepower riding models. They are rented by utility contractors, including large ones, landscape, service market segments, golf courses, municipal agencies and homeowners for small models.”

Gould said Sunbelt was established to rent equipment to utility contractors.

“We focus on specific market segments with the goal of providing specialty tools and equipment to meet the needs of each segment,” he explained. “Our goal is to have all the equipment needed for individual market segments.”