Equipment rental, also called plant hire in some countries, is a service industry providing machinery, equipment and tools of all kinds and sizes (from earthmoving to powered access, power generation to hand-held tools etc.) for a limited period of time to final users, mainly to construction contractors but also to the industry and to individual consumers.
The equipment rental industry is relatively new. The American Rental Association was founded as early as 1955, and first waves of consolidation took place as early as in the 70’s in America, leading to the creation of companies with nation-wide operations.
Europe is catching up since the 80’s. The industry has moved from mostly family-owned small businesses to the creation of a number of international groups, some of which have an annual turnover close to €1billion. In 2007, 5 out of 10 of the largest equipment rental companies in the world were European. The large majority of companies in the industry however still have fewer than 5 employees and concentration in the industry is expected to set for a pause in 2008-2009 as a consequence of the international credit crunch.
The situation of the equipment rental industry still varies largely from one country to another in Europe. The industry is indeed more mature in some markets than others. Equipment sales penetration is for example lowest in Italy and Germany (around 10-11%) and highest in the UK and Northern Europe (up to 62%). Its growth potential is still important in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe, where some countries saw a double-digit growth rate for rental in recent booming years.
The main reasons for the industry’s overall fast development are:
• Capital Release: In times where they have to demonstrate high levels of profit compared to invested capital, contractors are increasingly eager to rent equipment, as it allows them to minimize the size of their equipment fleet. Less immobilized capital, allows for improved cost control, lower maintenance costs as well as for a reduction in transportation fleets. Renting equipment with operators even allows for optimizing staff costs.
• Range of recent equipment available: Some rental companies have fleet inventories reaching up to the hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment while others are very specialized in only a very specific product range. They can thus supply the most comprehensive range of state-of-the-art equipment – with or without qualified operators - as and when contractors / customers need it. Average fleet age in Europe is only 3.8 years.
• Maintenance, compliance with standards and regulations: Rental companies bear the responsibility for ensuring the equipment they rent out complies with all applicable regulations. Safety checks are performed before each delivery.
Key Figures on Equipment Rental in Europe
In early 2009, the European Rental Association and Global Insight published the first-ever statistical report on Europe’s rental industry, based on a research carried out in 11 countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK).
According to this study and previous research on countries not included in the study, the total size of the European equipment rental market was €33.6 billion in 2008. Of the €33.6 billion turnover, €24.4 billion are without operators and €9.2 billion are with operators.
In the 11 countries surveyed, 36,400 companies were active in rental in 2006 and they collectively employed 177,500 people in some 22,400 rental depots.
Average fleet age in 2008 was 3.8 years, ranging from 2.9 years for the lowest country to 5.7 years for the highest.