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A few months ago, a number of local hire outfits and builders’ merchants were affected by a large contractor going into receivership overnight. By the time word got around, it was mid-morning before various suppliers turned up on site to try to reclaim hired equipment or materials, only to be refused access by security staff hurriedly placed there by the receiver. When the dust settled and access was allowed, most of the hired-in kit and any easily removed items, such as plumbing fittings, were not present.

The story gradually emerged that, early on the morning of the receivership, all of the subcontractors turned in for work, only to be told they were now just creditors and no longer required! Within a few minutes they had entered the still insecure site and removed anything of value in the hope of mitigating their losses. Whilst this is understandable it meant that most of the hire suppliers suffered the double blow of a bad debt and lost kit. No doubt, after a few years the receiver will pay out a pittance in the pound and pocket an enormous fee.

Recently, the largest of our Top Ten Tool Hirers suffered the failure of one of its ‘sole supplier’ customers to a value that necessitated a statement to investors. Part of the provision for the bad debt was a significant estimate for ‘unrecovered’ equipment, which is presumably now widely scattered amongst various disgruntled subcontractors. When machines are stolen by criminals they are invariably spirited away never to be seen again, unlike the kit mentioned above that continues to be used on sites throughout the land - perhaps for many years afterwards.

Often there is no attempt to disguise the ID markings of the original owner and, because of this, when one of these machines surfaced on our patch recently we contacted the owner and asked if the machine was missing or whether they might have sold it. It was duly confirmed as a missing asset,


but they were not interested in taking the matter any further! No doubt they had their reasons but, at the very least, it would surely be in the interests of our industry for such kit to be removed from circulation.

If we add ex-hire fleet machines ‘acquired’ in this way to the increasing number of older ones being knocked out at auction by some of the larger hire companies, there is a growing pool of kit in circulation that is having a detrimental effect on our business. Every one of them in the hands of an end user is lost business for us all. The only thing in our favour is the fact that the majority of these items are not tested, cleaned or serviced and are often running with essential accessories missing.

What better place to see all the latest kit available than the Executive Hire Show?

One of the best ways to distance ourselves from poor kit, whether it comes from the sources mentioned above or from third rate hirers who refuse to adopt the standards that most of us aspire to, is to continually improve the quality and innovation that we can offer the market. The past year has been a watershed for our industry and, although comparatively few companies have actually

failed, it remains to be seen whether sacrifices and economies made by many others will reduce their ability to offer an effective service in the future. Demand is already rising, but so is the age of a lot of the kit some are offering.

Renewals are becoming urgent but if we act quickly there is the chance to still get a good finance rate. It won’t last long but, certainly, anyone locking into some of the fixed rate or supplier subsidised deals that are currently on offer will look back in a couple of years and breathe a sigh of relief. There is a consensus that finance rates could rise significantly over the next three years. A little time spent planning to permanently retire a few old machines in the New Year and to invest in some new kit, sooner rather than later, might prove very worthwhile.

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