Equipment hire considerations

Published:  09 February, 2017

Allan Parsons, national rental manager at Briggs Equipment, discusses what businesses need to consider when hiring in equipment, explaining how to avoid the pitfalls and make sure you get the right machine for the job.

When businesses experience peaks in demand their in-house resources can come under serious strain. Hiring in equipment on a short-term contract is a reliable and cost-effective way of bringing in extra capacity when time is of the essence. Not all companies are accustomed to the hire process however, and inexperience means it’s easy to get it wrong, as those that end up with inappropriate machines, equipment that breaks down or a large post-hire bill, will know to their cost.

Understanding the hire package

Businesses need to understand what they are paying for and where their contractual obligations lie, so a full and open exchange of information at the outset is an essential first step.

Only by knowing the full story and appreciating what a company is aiming to achieve can a supplier arrange hire of an appropriate machine at a competitive rate. Importantly, the business hiring the equipment is responsible for any damage to it, so a detailed discussion will also help to avoid large post-hire bills.

Confirming the period of hire is the easy part. What businesses do need to be clear about are the machine’s hours of operation, particularly if there is a requirement to use it in the evenings or on Saturdays and Sundays. As well as the hire fee, the company hiring in a truck typically pays for delivery and collection plus a charge for fuel or a spare battery (and a battery charging bed if required). Breakdown support is usually included in the package, but an extra charge will often apply if assistance is required after 5pm or at weekends, unless this has been negotiated as part of the contract.

Since some machines are better suited to certain environments, talk to your supplier about the application, including where you plan to use the truck. Considerations include whether the equipment will be working indoors or outside, height restrictions and ground conditions that could impact on tyre choice.

The type of load will also influence truck choice. If, for example, the job involves handling shrink-wrapped, palletised goods that are clearly marked with their weight, a two tonne forklift will fit the bill and there is no benefit to be gained from paying more to hire a three tonne truck.

The role of the operator

Hiring the equipment is only part of the solution when it comes to effective management of demand peaks: a decision must also be made as to whether the company has enough operators.

It is the hirer’s responsibility to ensure that all drivers are qualified and properly trained to operate the equipment, so bear this in mind if you are planning to recruit temporary staff. Since driver inexperience and/or a lax attitude to safety can result in equipment being damaged which, in turn, may generate an expensive repair bill at the end of the hire contract, it’s important to manage operators properly.

Reputable suppliers will familiarise drivers with the machines they will be using, but operators must be encouraged to read the operator’s manual/safety guide which contains clear instructions on how to use the equipment, perform basic checks, carry out simple maintenance and report problems. Impress upon drivers the importance of conducting a daily pre-shift check and make it clear that if they have any concerns or spot an equipment fault, they must report them immediately.

Speed is often a factor in accidents involving forklift trucks and if operators don’t appreciate stopping distances, loads may fall off. Typically, short term hire trucks are supplied with the factory settings, but it is possible to reduce the likelihood of accidents – and equipment damage – by specifying trucks that are speed restricted.

The changing short-term hire market

Hiring in forklift trucks is certainly a cost-effective way of dealing with a seasonal, occasional or emergency spike in demand, but the market is changing. Increasingly, what businesses want is a reliable ‘one stop’ resource that can support them during challenging periods when changes to their operations require the deployment of specialised equipment for a short time span.

At the same time, a commitment to invest in their fleets means that reputable providers are able to satisfy more diverse requirements. It is now much easier to acquire the latest specification articulated forklifts, tele-trucks, aerial access equipment, sweepers, all-terrain utility vehicles and even specialised heavy lifting trucks on contracts ranging from a single day up to 12 months.

When hiring in equipment, partnering with a reputable supplier is key to satisfying your specific requirements. Leading solutions providers will provide quality trucks which are LOLER (the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) certified, well-maintained and safety checked. This is vital because the last thing any business wants is for a short term hire truck to break down and for the driver to be standing idle. The knock on effect can be highly damaging to a company’s reputation if it is unable to fulfil its commercial obligations.

Getting the best deal

Allan Parsons highlights a number of suggestions to help businesses secure the best deal:

• Plan ahead! Short notice is better than none and booking early improves the chances of getting the equipment you want.

• Consider your requirements carefully; demand varies from machine to machine and hiring a particular class of forklift truck in low season could be an advantage.

• More competitive rates tend to be available for longer rental periods, so try to anticipate demand to get the best price, first time.

• Talk to your supplier about opportunities to consolidate deliveries and collections. Reputable suppliers will respond swiftly and can often deliver rental equipment to site within 24 hours of an order being placed. Discussing opportunities to consolidate deliveries and collections and asking questions is also important as providers may be able to help out by moving machines around the country.

• Snap up special offers. It’s an obvious point, but one that bears reinforcing because there are useful savings to be made by taking advantage of promotional and damage waiver offers.

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