Executive Hire News › Archives › November/December 2015 › Crosshire : An industry in great shape
Crosshire : An industry in great shape
With a little more time than usual on my hands, I spoke recently to a number of owners and senior managers in our industry about how business had progressed over the past year. It was pleasing to hear that investment in new equipment was top of the agenda with nearly everyone. There is little doubt that customers are paying a lot more attention to the age of kit that they hire. In some cases, I was told that
clients would often quote from the tender documents they
had signed up to, particularly regarding noise and exhaust emissions. On the small tool front, the demand for the latest cordless tools employing long-life battery technology continues apace.
The grumble factor was remarkably low, but there were genuine concerns about the overall cost of transport and the perennial battle to get customers to accept realistic delivery charges. In the south east of England and major northern cities, the time taken for journeys was adding considerably to costs. Some of you did comment that the election period had seen a drop in demand, but no one thought that the on-going debate about Europe was likely to affect our industry. Theft of equipment is still an issue in some areas, but it is evident that, as older machines bite the dust, the additional and long overdue enhancements to security that manufacturers are building into machines are proving successful. More than one hire outfit said they had punters who were only willing to accept modern machines with their better security features.
Another positive note was the level of staff morale, with very low churn rates of labour. Indeed, quite a number of you are recruiting or thinking of doing so soon. Our industry is in great shape to meet the challenges of the future and all the political posturing about the need for more housing and other infrastructure should ensure good demand for kit.
Back at the coalface, I have to report that our long-serving,
but well past official retirement age driver, Rocket Raymond, has given notice that he does not want to spend another winter delivering to sites. We wish him well in his new part-time job, riding shotgun on the hearse of a local undertaker. In the meantime, we have just enough bodies to maintain normal service, but we will need to recruit.
I had not realised just how many qualifications Raymond has amassed over the years. Even sub-7.5 tonne vehicle drivers engaged on general plant duties need so many skills in addition to their road traffic qualifications. The only way to actually get a new driver quickly is to tempt one from a competitor with a fancy advert in the local paper. This may be a short term answer, but is not a satisfactory one for our wider industry.
As we all know, just advertising for a pedal pusher will bring along some applicants, but when they realise they have to load and unload our kit in all weathers, rather than have a few pallets loaded by forklift while they sit in the cab, they lose interest. Our drivers and counter staff are our front line of contact with clients and getting them trained and motivated is absolutely vital.
Some progressive outfits allocate regular out-of-hours brainstorming sessions for such employees, where new ideas can be discussed and existing practices examined for the benefit of mutual improvement. Experienced drivers can pass on a lot of useful information to newcomers, and finding time outside normal opening hours to enhance staff knowledge is surely a relatively low-cost benefit to our overall service.
Also, at this time of year, many of us receive communications from clients demanding that we put kit
off-hire over the holiday. It is a commercial decision as to how we each react, but I would suggest that any such request to ‘off-hire’, while leaving your kit on site, is answered by pointing out that, while you may waive hire charges, you will not place the kit off-hire. The customer must remain liable for all the contract terms he has signed up for, otherwise you are at risk.
I suggest a letter, rather than e-mail, be sent after you have received any such notice, pointing out that you do not agree to off-hire the kit, only to waive charges. In a dispute, it may be important that your letter was the last one in the exchange of correspondence.
As the festive season approaches, I send very best wishes for Christmas and for a profitable 2016.