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Equipment rental, also called plant hire in some countries (in the UK for instance), is a service industry providing machinery, equipment and tools of all kinds and sizes (from earthmoving to powered access, from 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 a relatively new industry, which first developed in Anglo-Saxon countries. 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 North America, leading to the creation of companies with nationwide 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 in excess of €1 billion. 40 of the 100 largest equipment rental companies in the world are European. The large majority of companies in the industry however still have fewer than 5 employees and concentration in the industry is expected to renew at a fast pace following a pause started 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 rentalpenetration is for example lowest in Italy and Spain and Poland and highest in the UK and Nordic Countries. The potential for growth 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 few specific products 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.
- 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.
The European rental industry, through its representative association ERA, has published a manifesto for the Promotion of the sustainable Benefits of the Rental Concept. The motivation for the Manifesto comes from the 5 principles used in the rental business:
- Shared usage:
- The construction companies can access equipment when required,
- The centralised ownership leads to a more frequent and therefore more efficient use of the equipment.
- The rental companies contribute to a product design facilitating maintenance and repair activities,
- The rental companies focus on spare parts management,
- The rental companies ask for increased information on product repair from the equipment manufacturers.
- Resource use:
- Rental companies search for equipment to offer the most sustainable option to their customers,
- Rental companies provide theoretical and practical trainings to their customers to optimise the use of equipment.
- Components of the dismantled construction equipment can be reused.
- Rental companies take care of their equipment by:
- Repairing when it is still possible,
- Recycling when it is at the end of its life cycle,
- Selling it to second hand markets, if it still complies with the regulations.
- Rental companies use their bargaining power to demand equipment suppliers to:
- Invest more in R&D to limit the use of non-recyclable material,
- Take responsibility for end-of-life of equipment by collecting, reusing or recycling.
Key Figures on Equipment Rental in Europe
In 2016, the European Rental Association published the ERA Market Report, based on a research carried out in 15 countries (Austria,Belgium, The Czech republic,Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland,Spain, Sweden, Switzerland 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 without operator was €25 billion in 2016. In the 15 countries surveyed, 15,500 companies were active in rental in 2016 and they collectively employed 120,000 people.
- "Who We Are". Ararental.org. Retrieved 2 January 2015.