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replacing it. Nevertheless, there are some positive signs. JCB has seen an improvement in telehandler sales recently, suggesting that some housing developments are starting and sites re-opening.”

He also points out another dilemma faced by hirers who delay replacing machines. “One hirer told me recently that they were not being ‘pushed’ by customers to replace equipment. Whereas once they would have virtually demanded machines that were no more than, say, two or three years old, they are now content with older units - especially if they can negotiate a lower rate.”

Similarly, Volvo’s David Munns suggests that “current hire rates generally bear no relation to the cost of the equipment. In the current economic climate, everyone has to cut their cloth accordingly; however, if hirers find it difficult to raise rates to sensible levels, and achieve a better return on their investment, they will also find it harder to charge good rates on new equipment. Smaller fleets may have greater utilisation, but if rates remain too low, then that is a major industry concern.”

Paul Clarke, Southern Area Sales Manager with Takeuchi Mfg UK Ltd, detects “much more optimism at the moment, with a distinct rise in enquiry levels.We are talking to hirers who want to buy again after having delayed refreshing their fleets. More are realising that, if they delay too long, it will severely disrupt their overall planned replacement cycles. At the beginning of the year, 7 and 8 tonne machines were amongst those in greatest demand, and in 2011 we expect more interest in 3 and 5 tonne machines.”

Higher rates of utilisation

Similarly, Adrian Hyde, Terex’s Global Product Manager for Site Dumpers and Compaction Equipment, says that “we have experienced more enquiries for 2 and 3 tonne dumpers, suggesting that smaller house building and construction sites might be opening up again. Hirers also report that utilisation rates are up, which is a positive sign, but add that customers are generally unwilling to pay more to hire a new machine.Yet manufacturers’ costs are rising, reflecting raw material prices, and they have to meet targets like ensuring engines comply with forthcoming emissions standards. This suggests that prices will have to rise, and hirers should charge rates that reflect this.”

Thwaites says its compact pedestrian dumper provides a good niche opportunity for hirers.

31 The versatility of skid steer loaders makes them suitable for diverse markets.

Ian Brown, Sales Director of Thwaites, says that tool and equipment hirers continue to represent a market of increasing importance, as they explore opportunities to serve smaller builders, landscapers and other tradesmen. “We introduced our Micro 300 pedestrian dumper 12 months ago, and it has helped our penetration of an additional market segment for us, in the same way that our 1-tonne Hi-Tip dumper assisted us in targeting smaller plant hirers. We are very pleased with sales levels since its launch.”

Turning attention to skid steer and tracked loaders, suppliers report that sales levels have been maintained at an annual level of 800-1,000 machines. As JCB’s Keith Hoskins says, “Many potential users are reluctant because they prefer the familiar operating environment of a machine with a cab and a steering wheel. However, they have an established user base in markets such as farming, recycling facilities and at dockyards.”

However, Frank Plas, Bobcat Product Manager Loaders for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, reports that, “for skid steer loaders, we have seen moderate growth and there are definite signs that the industry is picking up. For tracked loaders, sales have been less than wheeled machines, but we remain convinced the concept is appropriate for UK ground conditions and the applications involved. Interest is strongest in the smaller machines, like the T110 tracked loader and the S70, S100 and S130 skid steers. Hire rates are good because of the versatility of the machines in combination with a wide range of attachments.”

Proving how hirers can offer such machines successfully, Geoff Hamlen, MD of Skidsteer Hire Solutions of Monmouth, reports business has remained busy throughout 2010. “We have a fleet of more than 20 Bobcat skid steer and tracked loaders, with approximately 80 attachments.We serve diverse markets, including agriculture, fencing, utilities, landscaping, forestry and everything in between. It is the attachment that sells the machine, because customers are looking for a solution to problems, especially in wet weather conditions and other challenging environments.We continue to grow our fleet as we supply customers within a 200-mile radius.”

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