Rental transfer

24 April 2008

Tim Nuttall has expanded Access Hire's fleet by 25% since he Tim Nuttall has expanded Access Hire's

Tim Nuttall has expanded Access Hire's fleet by 25% since he Tim Nuttall has expanded Access Hire's fleet by 25% since he took over two years ago, but has no plans to move to a larger took over two ye

Australia is one of the best markets for construction equipment rental with more than 50% of equipment sold directly to rental companies, according to Access Hire managing director Tim Nuttall. “There are very few major contractors in Australia who don't use rental equipment,” he says. “The concept of renting is widely accepted.”

The country's rental market is valued at over A$ 2.2 billion (US$1.6 billion), according the Australian Bureau of Statistics, according the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and around A$195 million ($143 million) is generated by the access rental market. Powered access is the fourth–biggest rental product by revenue in Australia after scaffolding, cranes and earthmoving, but powered access is gaining on scaffolding's lead. Mr Nuttall believes that rental of powered access equipment will continue to grow over the next few years as demand for equipment to overcome health and safety issues and environmental concerns increases. “New legislation brought in two years ago in Australia means that the use of ladders for access over 2 m has been outlawed and has triggered demand for small electric scissor lifts,” explains Mr Nuttall. “The finishing trades are increasingly demanding lightweight powered access equipment which can work in limited spaces. There is also a growing market for electrically powered systems to enable indoor use of powered access systems without problems from fumes or noise.”

This growing demand for access equipment – along with new management – has helped Melbourne–based Access Hire increase its rental fleet by 25% in the last two years to around 200 units. Mr Nuttall took over the company in 2003 from Malcolm Kemp who set it up in the 1980s. The takeover allowed Mr Nuttall to bring together two passions which he has developed through his career – access and rental.

Both the rental and access business are in Mr Nuttall's blood after three decades working in one or other sector. He worked for general rental company Wreckair Rental for 20 years and then joined JLG Industries in the mid 1990s as vice president for Australia and Asia.

“I travelled a lot during my time with JLG which gave me a chance to see lots of different rental businesses throughout Asia Pacific,” he says. “Essentially the business is the same the world over and the skills are very transferable so I jumped at the chance when I heard there was an opportunity at Access Hire.

“Mr Kemp had built the business up from scratch and was keen for it to stay independent and not be swallowed up by the likes of Coates Hire, which already has around 50% of the access market in Victoria.”

Despite expanding the business over the last two years, Mr Nuttall says he has no plans to move his 12–strong maintenance team to a larger depot. “An empty rental yard is a successful one, so I don't intend for us to need a larger depot,” he explains. “Lead times for rental of access equipment are generally longer than other construction equipment which makes logistical planning easier.”

Fleet mix

Access Hire's fleet is primarily made up of JLG machines, but there are also a few Liftlux (pre–JLG ownership), Genie, Haulotte and Snorkel machines. “I prefer JLG,” explains Mr Nuttall. “Not just because I used to work for the company – many of the machines were already in the fleet before I took over – but because they cost less and JLG offers good support.”

According to Mr Nuttall, Coates and Skylift are Access Hire's main competitors in Victoria and these two companies have virtual control of the rental rates. “Coates is continually chasing the rental rates downwards for access equipment,” he says “They use scissor lifts as loss leaders to gain other business.”

On plans for the future, Mr Nuttall says he is developing a strategy to maintain investment and growth but also to consolidate the company's financial position before the next construction downturn.

“One thing we are looking closely at is finding alternative, but complementary, non–construction revenue streams,” he said. “We have already invested in two [industrial] fork lifts and we will be looking at expanding further into this market in the future – it requires the same technical skills for maintenance but the rental market in this sector is less cyclical.”

The answer to the question of where next for Access Hire may already lie inside the company's workshop where there is a partially restored 1978 Pontiac Firebird. “Classic car rental is a possibility,” explains Mr Nuttall. “Our maintenance team helped to restore my recently–acquired Mk III Jaguar E–type during quiet periods and did a great job, so I bought the Firebird as the next project.”AI

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