The fifth ALH Conference, held virtually on Oct. 23, brought in more than 700 registrations and provided a wealth of information from six industry experts.
Norty Turner, senior vice president, services & advanced solutions at United Rentals, presented the conference’s keynote speech, where he discussed United’s Covid-19 protocols.
United identified two main segments – contactless & worksite protocols and in-branch protocols – and created nine ‘plays’ to address within each segment. These include: drive-up service and designated drop zones, last touch disinfecting, driver precautions, digital capabilities, pre-rental disinfecting, social distancing, plexiglass counter barriers, PPE and communication.
During the first half of the year, United purchased 17,000 gallons of disinfectant and 14,000 gallons of hand sanitizer. As a two-prong approach, United disinfects equipment before it leaves a shop – paying special attention to high-touch surfaces – and again when it is delivered on a jobsite.
The company has also increased its contactless rental offerings, designating specific drive-up service and drop-off zones at branches.
Peter Douglas, managing director and CEO of IPAF, followed Turner and discussed the wide reach of IPAF’s services.
Douglas said while the Covid-19 pandemic has nearly halted in-person training, IPAF has moved forward with e-learning and VR simulator training, as well as increasing its webinar offerings and its new accident reporting portal.
Douglas said 2021 will see an increase in digitization, with IPAF offering more e-learning courses and paperless tests. IPAF will also debut new courses, expand trials for VR simulator courses and begin an environmental sustainability project.
Jim Colvin, CEO of Serious Labs, dove into how training has changed during Covid-19, with virtual classrooms, e-learning and simulator training taking priority over in-person training.
Serious Labs recently announced that operators can now receive PAL+ operator training, an extension of the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) Powered Access License (PAL), through Serious Labs’ VR Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) simulator.
“This is a huge milestone; not only from a MEWP industry perspective, but from a virtual technology perspective as well,” said Colvin, CEO. “We are the first and only company in the world to offer this level of accepted, approved training in which a virtual simulation can replace a physical piece of equipment. In this case, it’s a boom lift and scissor lift.”
Switching gears, Shashank Bhatia, senior director of engineering for aerial work platforms, product development at JLG Industries, Inc., looked to the future and the electrification of access equipment. Bhatia discussed why there’s a need for electrification, what has already been done, how electrification can be accomplished, who electrification benefits and gave a sneak peak into the Worksite of the Future.
Bhatia provided a deep dive into electric powertrain and actuation, battery and charging technology, control systems and connectivity, and various studies conducted on heavy equipment and electrification.
Next, Scott Hazelton, director, construction at IHS Markit, provided an outlook on U.S. construction and the rental market, specifically noting the U.S. construction and industrial outlook is challenged as a result of the global pandemic, but that bright spots, including residential construction, as well as a general expectation for some sectors to see improvement as soon as next year.
“This is the sharpest recession in history,” Hazelton, said. “Gross domestic product (GDP) saw a 40% loss in the second quarter, so the crawl back out of this is extensive.”
Specifically, total U.S. construction is expected to decline 2% in 2020 and 3% in 2021 as uncertainty continues until the Covid-19 pandemic is brought under more control.
“The good news is that, despite high unemployment, residential construction has increased back to about where it was in 2019,” Hazelton states. “It’s likely to increase 4% this year, then increase 2% in 2021 before declining 1% in 2022.
“Tight housing and low interest rates are limiting declines,” he continues. “Affordability will improve as the job market and incomes increase.”
Rounding out the event was a live interview between ALH Editor Lindsey Anderson and Sarah Rothenbuhler, owner, president and CEO of Birch Equipment Rental & Sales.
Rothenbuhler discussed the significant grounding of fleet her company experienced when the pandemic took Washington state by storm, and walked through how the company has survived, and will continue to do so.
Rothenburhler also spoke about the state of independent rental within the U.S. and provided insight into recruiting and maintaining staff.
The virtual 2020 ALH Conference is available to view, for free, via this link.
ALH would like to thank each of the event sponsors – Gold sponsors Skyjack and Genie, Supporting sponsors Harrison Hydra-Gen, MOBA mobile automation and ZTR Control Systems, and survey sponsor Serious Labs. ALH would also like to thank our media partner, IPAF, for their support.