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Executive Report:

Heavy traffic flow

Profiled last November, Watford-based Herts Equipment Rental continues to go from strength to strength. One year on, we discover how it is making particular strides in the traffic management market.

Last November’s Profile, brilliantly entitled ‘Two Herts beat as one’, highlighted Herts Equipment Rental, which had been created by the merger of two hirers formerly operating in the same area. When EHN last visited the company, it had recently completed the refurbishment of its 16,000ft2 facility in Watford and had increased its turnover by 12.5% to £1.5m in its first year in the new facility. At the same time, it had also opened a dedicated traffic management depot in Reigate, Surrey – trading as Herts Traffic Management Systems Ltd – which, at the time of our last visit, had hit its eight month sales target within the first three months.

One year on, the company is still delighted with the performance of this operation. In its first financial year to March 2006, Herts Traffic Management Systems achieved a turnover of £350,000, prompting a recent move from its former 1,000ft2 home in Reigate to a new 5,000ft2 facility in nearby Redhill. The depot, headed by Operations Director Paul Masters, has also invested £200,000 in adding new equipment to its fleet during the last year, including additional traffic light trailer units, speed matrix units and TM equipment, all supplied by Pike Signals, plus the purchase of dedicated Traffic Management vehicles. A full sign shop has also been installed at both the Watford and Redhill depots and two additional members of staff have been employed at Redhill to meet demand. Herts Traffic Management Systems is now on course to achieve a turnover of over £500,000 by the end of this financial year.

“Extraordinary leap forward”

“It’s been an extraordinary leap forward,” states Paul Masters. “Our biggest growth has been derived from utility companies, whose response times to urgent problems are being increasingly scrutinised by the press and public. Water companies, in particular, need to react very quickly and, as an independent hirer, our biggest assets are our service record and rapid response times. These have, without doubt, had a huge influence on our progress in this market.”

Herts Traffic Management has also created a niche market in the film and TV industry, supplying the specialist traffic equipment for on-location shoots for Pinewood, Ealing and Shepperton Studios.
A recent project involved the diversion of traffic around Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus, which were closed to the public. Paul Masters, who has ten years experience in this specialist field, personally put in a 17-hour shift to ensure the project went smoothly.

It is exactly this type of detailed attention that has ensured that the Herts Traffic Management operation has grown in this area. “With projects like this, it’s not just a matter of installing the equipment and leaving – film crews are too busy running here and there to think about safety issues; it is down to us to make sure the traffic situation is well-maintained.”

Such has been the success of the Herts Traffic Management depot that the company is now looking to open another, and is busy researching areas such as Kent and Hampshire. Other areas of new development include investment in the most up-to-the-minute CAD software for traffic management drawings – Cone 7 and Autocad - and the training of dedicated personnel to use it.

The business is also excited about a new product it plans to offer in the New Year: Visual Messaging System (VMS) boards. The company is currently in active talks with its supplier, Pike Signals, which is acting as agent for the Highways Agency approved Freeway3000 mobile variable message sign. Herts Traffic Management recently showcased the product on its stand at the South East Highway Authority Utility Committee (SEHAUC) show and received a very positive response.

“The Road Traffic Act, which is currently a Green Paper being passed through Parliament, demands increased deployment of this type of sign at short notice in order to keep drivers informed,” explains Herts Equipment Director Robert Winfield. “Having this product in stock will be hugely important for us as we grow, along with our accreditation to ISO 9001:2000 for Unit 12d of the NHSS for Quality Management in Highways Works, for installing and removing temporary traffic management on rural and urban roads.”

Mainstream hire business increase

The company’s mainstream hire business has also increased its turnover by another 10% in the last year, this despite one of its major clients being bought out by a company which had a prior arrangement with a national hirer. “It was a blow, but we took it on the chin and moved forward,” says Managing Director Richard Soanes. Herts Equipment has extended its plant fleet with Kubota mini excavators and Terex/Benford high tip dumpers, and has increased its roller/breaker fleet to 25, constituting a £200,000 investment.

A new Hire Manager and assistant have recently been hired, plus an apprentice fitter and a dedicated driver, as well as a vehicle for its Watford-based traffic management operation, which is also growing fast. “In the last month, our response time for traffic related hire has averaged at 55 minutes,” says Richard Soanes. “If we can, we will continue to reduce that still further. We will always try to go just that one stage better.”

Executive Hire NewsArchivesNovember 2006Executive Report › Heavy traffic flow

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