MEWP rental in the UK: The road to recovery
By Lewis Tyler28 August 2023
Following a period of uncertainty, confidence in the UK among OEMs and rental companies had fallen, but is that confidence returning? Lewis Tyler reports on one of the world’s most mature markets.
“The UK market is mature and increasingly competitive.” These are the thoughts of Andrew Kendrick, director of sales & support, Genie, on the MEWP market in the UK.
And, while market conditions may have varied in recent years, it’s a statement echoed by many in the industry.
Despite the impact of high inflation, the supply chain crisis and conflict in Ukraine, there’s an element of optimism among businesses in the UK.
Looking at the wider construction industry, this optimism is backed up by a report from construction insight and intelligence company Glenigan.
In its UK Construction Industry Forecast 2023-2025, it linked significant challenges facing the industry to difficult economic conditions and predicted declines of 18% in 2023.
Optimism in the aerial plaform market
However, while current conditions may look unfavourable, the report also found that the future looks more positive, with a predicted increase of 12% in 2024 and 3% in 2025.
So, what is behind that optimism? A strong pipeline of infrastructure projects across the country is a good indication of what’s to come and is helping to abate a somewhat less optimistic outlook for the private housing market which is expected to decline by 11% in 2023 according to the Construction Products Association (CPA).
There is of course hope that the number of infrastructure projects, coupled with an ease in the supply chain could see demand for access equipment increase in the UK and allow OEMs to clear order backlogs. That is the belief of Kendrick, who says the company is seeing “strong demand for aerial equipment” as well as “steady growth.”
Kendrick says, “While there have been some disruptions in the supply chain, particularly concerning electronic components, we are finally seeing improvements in that area. This is great news because our customers are eager to receive the equipment they have ordered, and we’re excited to fulfil this need.”
Sector confidence among equipment rental companies
In terms of sector confidence, it is worth noting that in the anonymous ERA/IRNRentalTracker results for Q1 of 2023, rental companies in the UK were largely positive about the current state of play for the market.
Using the metrics of employment intentions, fleet investment, utilisation rates, current conditions and future conditions, UK respondents remained positive.
In particular, UK responses were positive on business forecasts for the next 12 months. 58% of respondents said that they were expecting business to be ‘better’ or ‘much better’ in that period, compare that to just 29% of respondents operating in France.
The same percentage (58%) were also predicting growth in Q1, while only Spain (66%) was higher in predicting increased investment in 2024.
Delving deeper into some of those companies who are active in the country, Ashtead Group says its UK business, Sunbelt Rentals, generated £685 million in revenue, down from the £726 million it posted in its previous financial year.
However, rental only revenue for the company hit £429 million, up by 6% from the previous year.
Elsewhere, Speedy Hire says it is seeing growth in both its hire and services, despite what it describes as a “changing macro-environment.”
Revenue increased by 13.9% in 2022, up to £440 million and a £54 million rise when compared with 2021.
David Shearer, chairman of Speedy, said the results demonstrated the “strength and resilience of our business model” amid a challenging time for the UK economy, while CEO Dan Evans said it reflected a “strong performance in core hire and Customer Solutions.”
New players entering the UK rental market
As Genie’s Kendrick said, the market in the UK is becoming increasingly competitive, with a number of other manufacturers seeking to make the most of untapped opportunities within the market.
Earlier this year the aerial lift and telehandler division of China-based OEM XCMG announced the appointment of Genesis Equipment Sales as exclusive distributor in the UK.
Genesis, which is part of Northern Ireland-based Ballyvesey Holdings, will take delivery of a range of XCMG machines for distribution to the UK, including telehandlers, forklifts, scissor lifts, articulated and telescopic booms.
According to Hans Aarse, business development director for access in Europe, XCMG, the company had been approached by a number of access rental companies before deciding to appoint its own distributor.
The company will be led by Mark Kennedy, director, plant division, Ballyvesey Holdings.
According to Kennedy, the construction industry in the UK is “on the rise again” and there is a “growing demand for reliable and efficient access equipment.”
Kennedy said, “We’re excited to introduce Genesis Equipment Sales as a new player in the UK access equipment market.”
Another OEM pressing into the UK is Finland-based Dinolift. The company appointed CPL as its new distributor, making it responsible for sales and customer support of DINO trailer-mounted MEWPs, DINO lightweight 4×4 and DINO spiders.
Speaking to AI at the Vertikal Days exhibition in June when the partnership was officially launched, Karin Nars, managing director of Dinolift said, “Dinolift has always had the philosophy on focusing our resources and the UK is a mature market.
“If you want to be respected, you should be here.”
The future of aerial platform rental
So, as supply chain issues ease and the number of projects in the UK increase, what does the future look like for the country?
One important factor that will likely shape the future is sustainability. OEMs are being tasked with producing low-emission or zero-emission equipment.
This was the driver behind a new partnership between Speedy Hire and Niftylift that will see the companies produce the world’s first hydrogen-electric powered access platform.
Evans said, “Our investment into this partnership with Niftylift enables us to accelerate the sustainable and technological evolution of the sectors we operate in and supports our ambitious plan to become a net zero business by 2040, ten years ahead of the government target.”
The focus on electric was also on show at Vertikal Days with many companies showcasing the latest innovations in alternative power. For Dinolift, this came in the form of its Dino 280RXTE full electric battery-operated 4x4 self-propelled boom lift, equipped with an AGM or Li-Ion battery pack.
Elsewhere in the electric space, LiuGong showcased its new LA20JE telescopic boom.
The machine has a 22.2m maximum working height and is said to deliver clean, quiet performance, while its 4-wheel drive provides “unrivalled rough terrain capability” according to the company.
With an increasing focus on reducing emissions, it’s likely the future will see more machines in this space launched in the UK.
Outside of sustainability, Kendrick is also predicting changes in the UK and anticipates “continued growth” with an “upward trend in demand.”
Kendrick said, “We sense there could be some improvements in the supply chain, which would naturally lead to decreased lead times.
“While we cannot predict the future with absolute certainty, we are optimistic about the possibilities in the coming months.”