Underground Rental Market Bounces Back Strong

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

Historically, vibratory plows, horizontal directional drills and vacuum excavators never have been widely accepted by the rental industry. However, Sunbelt does stock pneumatic piecing tools for making short compaction bores under drives and sidewalks and now carries vacuum excavators as well.

“There has been a boom in demand over the last two years,” Gould said. “The compact, trailer-mounted models are used to pothole to uncover buried pipe and cable, to keep directional drilling job sites free of drilling fluids escaping from bore holes and for general clean-up work.”

Gould said many in the industry believe the strength of the rental market is primarily linked to the economy bouncing back.

“However, it has become more difficult for smaller to medium-size utility contractors to purchase new equipment, so equipment rental becomes the best option,” he said. “And when a project is completed, contractors return the equipment.”

Tier 4 impacts
Another factor, Sunbelt believes, is that new equipment costs have risen dramatically with regulated Tier 4 diesel engine requirements.

“As an example,” says Gould, “a 1,600 cfm compressor’s pricing has risen over 40 percent in the last few years, making rentals that much more affordable for contractors. During the economic downturn, many large contractors performed cost-cutting analysis on rentals versus purchasing, and many found that rentals, from an overall cost perspective, actually saved money.”

Based in Moline, IL, ARA is an international trade association composed of 8,600 equipment rental businesses and nearly 1,000 rental equipment suppliers and manufacturers.

United Rentals Inc. is the largest equipment rental company in the world, with an integrated network of 830 rental locations in 49 states and 10 Canadian provinces. The company's approximately 11,400 employees serve construction and industrial customers, utilities, municipalities, homeowners and others. The company offers for rent approximately 3,300 pieces of equipment with a total original cost of $7.24 billion.