As Industry Contracts, Trailer-Mounted Aerials Make Economic Sense

With the economy slowing down, priorities for construction have changed. Home and business owners are taking repairs and small scale construction into their own hands like never before, and the slowdown in construction has small contractors calculating new ways to save money. Both paths lead to trailer-mounted aerial lifts.

According to Dennis Limberg, owner of Eagle Rentals, Statesville, N.C., his company has adjusted its equipment inventory in the last 12 months to meet the needs of do-it-yourselfers and small contractors. One of these changes included replacing older telescopic boom trailer-mounted aerials, which are more appropriate for commercial jobs, with articulating units that are ideal for smaller contractors and homeowners. He says the company is seeing an increase in trailer-mounted aerial rentals because DIY projects are increasing and small contractors want to spend less on an equipment rental. These machines often rent for one-third to one-half less than a self-propelled lift each day, which can be a big savings for contractors.

In Michigan, Tom Hammerslag, president of Great Lakes Access, Grand Rapid, Mich., expects trailer-mounted aerial rentals to at least stay level this year. “Both business owners and homeowners are renting those machines,” he says. “I think we’ll do fine with it as a category this year.”

One area Hammerslag sees business picking up is in housing projects. “With so many foreclosure properties bought at auctions, people are going to fix them up,” he says. “A lot of those people are do-it-yourselfers, and I think that is going to present us with more opportunities for business, particularly with the lighter weight tow behinds. My gut take on a lot of the foreclosures is the people that are buying $150,000 houses for $40,000 or $50,000 are going to put money into them.”

For the homeowner and small business owner, Hammerslag says he purchased a few 34-foot Niftylift tow behinds at The Rental Show to rent for a nominal fee and a good ROI. “They don’t need the outreach or hydraulics as much,” he says. “They are willing to do more jockeying around than a contractor would be [if he] is paying someone by the hour.”

Because home or small business owners rent equipment infrequently, the question often raised is are they a liability to rental companies? “There isn’t any more liability for renting to homeowners than contractors,” Hammerslag says. “I typically find homeowners—because they don’t do this stuff very often—tend to be more careful because they are scared of being up in the air. Most of them [ask] how do I operate it properly to keep myself safe?”

Limberg notes it is important to have a well-trained rental staff that makes sure the homeowner is aware of the risks and has read safety instructions and the operators manual. “With homeowners, you have to be careful,” he says. “You don’t want to just hook up to their truck and send them on their way.”

Look for more on trailer-mounted aerial trends, including equipment selection options and the demand for taller towables, in the upcoming May issue of Lift and Access.