Rent Smart: Rental news roundup

Sunbelt rentals kicks safety up a notch

While most rental companies try to go over the owner’s manual with customers prior to equipment rental, it’s not uncommon for contractors to want to gloss over this moment. Accidents are more likely to happen, however, when you do not familiarize yourselves with a new rental machine.

In an effort to promote additional safety awareness for their customers, Sunbelt Rentals is developing new safety materials to be included in each customer’s rental agreement. By using visuals such as safety videos and pamphlets, the company hopes to make the subject matter more interesting and appealing.

“In the past, we’ve had a hard time gauging what people know (about equipment), so we are now trying to give them the most detailed information possible,” says Jeff Stachowiak, recently promoted as Sunbelt’s national director of safety.

In addition to stressing the importance of reading the owner’s manual, Sunbelt’s new safety videos and pamphlets will detail personal protective equipment and how to operate various machines.

According to the American Rental Association’s Insurance Services – a subsidiary of ARA that insures the association’s members – over the past five years one third of member companies’ injury claims have resulted from use of rented aerial lifts, chairs and forklifts.

“Each machine is unique and models change from year to year – that’s the biggest thing contractors need to realize,” Stachowiak says. “Just because you operated a machine a couple of months ago does not mean it’s going to run the same way this time.”

And therein lies the challenge. “Most contractors know how to operate certain equipment, so they don’t want to spend five minutes learning about a new or different machine,” he says.

Since contractors aren’t likely to sit down and watch a video tutorial, a how-to-use video will play in the store while the equipment is being prepared for the renter.

Stachowiak says Sunbelt will likely focus on general categories for the pamphlets, grouping the equipment by type, such as one pamphlet focusing on skid-steer loaders, another for backhoes and so on.

It’s not only safety that Sunbelt has in mind, however. Downtime can be a major setback for contractors, so familiarizing customers with the equipment can also help solve that problem.

“At least 60 to 70 percent of service calls Sunbelt receives are connected with operator error,” Stachowiak claims. “This is primarily because the customer doesn’t take the time to learn about the basics of the equipment. We encourage contractors to let us show them how to operate the machinery and read over the owner’s manual, because if something goes wrong, it’s downtime for them.”

United Rentals’ CEO announces retirement
Not long after United Rentals announced its plan to “explore a broad range of strategic alternatives” in an effort to maximize shareholder value, Wayland Hicks, the company’s chief executive officer, announced his retirement, effective June 4.

Michael Kneeland, United Rentals’ executive vice president and chief operating officer who has been with the company since 1998, will become CEO. Hicks will remain as vice chairman of the board of directors.

“We started as a company with zero revenues and we’ve come a long way under Wayland’s leadership,” says Chuck Wessendorf, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications for United Rentals.

According to Wessendorf, the company expects revenues of $3.85 billion this year.

Hicks was previously United Rentals’ chief operating officer until he was promoted as chief executive officer in 2003.