Equipment Rental: Managers Need Answers on Costs, Contracts

By Dick Detmer  

Equipment and tools are essential for almost every activity a maintenance and engineering department undertakes. Considering the number of tasks — whether daily maintenance activities or long-term projects — taking place in and around commercial and institutional facilities, finding the right combination tools and equipment can be a challenge for maintenance and engineering managers.

That challenge is a key reason many managers look to equipment rental to ensure workers have the equipment and tools they need to do their jobs safely, efficiently, and effectively. By renting rather than buying equipment, managers can avoid capital expenditures, eliminate the need for long-term equipment storage, rely on rental companies for maintenance and equipment replacement in the event of a breakdown, and ensure the delivery of the proper equipment and tools for the application.

Managers need to ask rental companies eight essential questions before entering rental agreements to make sure the end result meets the expectations of managers and the equipment's users.

Eight Questions

Managers can use the following questions to gather the information they need to ensure a rental company provides them with the most appropriate solution:

Which items would improve worker efficiency the most? Manufacturers often introduce the most innovative, modern equipment to rental companies first, so rental companies might have products managers have yet to use or hear about. Using this advanced equipment can help workers complete maintenance tasks more efficiently. Efficient use of precious time is more important now than ever before, due to smaller staffs.

What is the total cost of renting the equipment? Total cost goes beyond renting a piece of equipment for a certain amount of time. Managers should determine, for example, if delivery charges are based solely on delivering the equipment to the facility or for picking it up, as well.

Can I review the rental contract in advance? Even though rental customers rarely read the rental contract they sign, reviewing the contract in advance will prevent confusion and misunderstandings. It is important for managers to see the differences in policies and procedures when comparing various rental companies. In addition to the actual rental contract, some rental companies have a brief pamphlet describing the plan. Ask for copies of both the pamphlet and the entire contract.

When do rental companies stop the clock? Clarifying when companies stop charging for equipment use is particularly important, since some agreements state the rental period — and the amount of time for which companies charge a customer — is the entire time the rental equipment is on site, not just the amount of time workers use the equipment. Rental companies typically stop charging their customers when they call the company to pick up the equipment or tools.

Is there a damage-waiver fee? If such a fee exists, managers should determine if it is mandatory or optional. It also is a good idea for managers to determine the extent of the damage-waiver coverage. Some rental businesses refer to the damage waiver as an equipment-protection plan. It is not insurance. The plan is worth considering, but managers might be able to save money by opting out of it if their insurance already covers damage to rental equipment.

Are weekly or monthly rates available? Besides offering daily rental rates, most companies offer weekly and monthly rates. Knowing these rates can help managers save hundreds or thousands of dollars annually because some weekly rates, for example, are only three-four times the daily rate.

Does the daily rate last 8 or 24 hours? Some rental companies deal mostly with construction contractors, which use rental equipment within the course of a normal business day, so they only offer an eight-hour rental rate. But technicians in many institutional and commercial facilities work before and after that eight-hour window, so asking this question will help managers select the rental company that makes the most sense in terms of their department's staffing and schedule.

What training does the rental company provide? Rental companies have a vested interest in providing effective training, but some companies train better than others. Managers should obtain an operator's manual for each item they rent and make sure all operators read the manual. Whether it is an aerial work platform, light-construction equipment, or specialized tools, managers need to ensure workers and technicians receive the proper training.

Repetitive training leads to increased employee retention. It is not wise to rely completely on verbal instructions from the rental company's agent. If technicians will use the equipment for an extended period, managers should consider retraining sessions to reinforce safe and proper use of the equipment. Concentrating on the safety aspects of the equipment is the most important factor in smooth operation and successful projects.

Maintenance managers also should focus on the proper and consistent use of the personal protective equipment appropriate for each piece of rental equipment. Observing workers operating the equipment is an effective way to ensure they follow safe operating procedures. Workers might need follow-up and feedback to stay on the path to safe operation.

Renting equipment is a viable and valuable option for many managers, and equipment rental is a logical choice in many applications. But managers must ask rental companies the eight questions above before making a final decision to ensure the safe, reliable, and effective execution of maintenance and engineering tasks.

Dick Detmer — dick@detmerconsulting.com — is president of Detmer Consulting Inc. and is a nationally recognized expert in the equipment rental industry. He specializes in the development of high-performance equipment rental businesses.

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  posted on 7/30/2010   Article Use Policy

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