Report: Highway/bridge builders spend most on equipment

Contractors who construct highways and bridges are beating out general building contractors in equipment purchases and rentals, a report released June 24 revealed.

According to an American Road & Transportation Builders Association analysis of the U.S. Commerce Department’s 2002 Economic Census — the most recent data available — road and bridge contractors spent twice as much on equipment than heavy-duty contractors and six times more than nonresidential general building contractors. While they represent only 1.6 percent of contractors, transportation builders spent $5.2 billion on construction equipment purchases and rentals in 2002.

The 2002 trend was similar to a 1997 study that showed the average transportation contractor spending annually nearly three times the amount spent by other heavy contractors ($89,400) and more than six times the amount ($26,800) spent by nonresidential building contractors.

William Buechner, ARTBA vice president of economics and research, said transportation construction contractors are the primary market for expensive heavy machinery, and the increase in purchases was due to the contractors’ need. “The increase will only go as far as valuable work increases,” he said. “The strong growths in highway and bridge construction just shows (contractors) are in need of more equipment.”

According to ARTBA, highway and bridge contractor employment increased 6.4 percent between February and March. There were 5,700 more employees on sites in March than in the same month in 2004.

Buechner said some sections of the 2002 study have been updated, but he did not know when an update of the entire study would be released.