Editor’s note: BOMAG Americas, Kewanee, Ill., is affiliated with BOMAG Worldwide, based in Boppard, Germany, which is part of France’s Fayat Group. The company is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of compaction and other equipment used in every aspect of road construction and heavy dam construction. Rental Management asked Rob Mueckler, BOMAG Americas vice president of sales and marketing, to respond to the following questions in order to help readers better understand what opportunities might be available to equipment rental companies when it comes to road construction. An edited transcript of his answers follows:
RM: Some stores that rent construction equipment say they do not necessarily rent road construction equipment because road construction companies tend to own the major equipment used to build roads. However, when I drive past road construction, I often see a variety of equipment, some of which can or has been rented. What do you see as the opportunities for rental stores in road construction?
Rob Mueckler: The comments made by rental stores regarding contractors owning their equipment used to build roads is true, typically more so for large asphalt-oriented equipment such as tandem rollers, recyclers and milling machines. However, rental opportunities are abundant throughout the road construction market. For example, single-drum rollers, trench rollers and reversible plate tampers are commonly rented machines. In addition, since the economic crisis in 2008, our industry has experienced a fundamental shift towards more rental versus ownership of large asphalt-oriented equipment. Furthermore, due to the market uncertainty created by the lack of implementing a long-term federal highway bill in the United States, more end users are preferring rental as their vehicle of equipment acquisition versus ownership as they are able to manage owning and operating costs and balance sheets much better during this environment. At BOMAG, we fully expect this trend to continue in the coming years, so the opportunity for our customers will be to capitalize on this trend by being committed to a dedicated rental fleet and, more importantly, have the capability of offering true 24/7 parts and service support.
RM: BOMAG manufactures a variety of equipment used in road construction. What types of equipment do you produce for this market?
Mueckler: BOMAG provides a complete product line consisting of both soil and asphalt compaction equipment for road building and road maintenance projects. Products we manufacture consist of single-drum rollers, embankment compactors, tandem vibratory rollers, static steel rollers, pneumatic tire rollers, recycler/stabilizing equipment and cold milling machines. BOMAG also produces a full range of hand-guided light equipment such as plates, tampers and trench rollers that are used for both soil and asphalt compaction. All of these products are utilized in some manner for road building and reconstruction projects.
RM: How has road construction equipment evolved over the years?
Mueckler: Despite the stereotype that the construction industry is not very dynamic in nature, quite the opposite has taken place with road building equipment. BOMAG has introduced several technological innovations such as Intelligent Compaction and GPS positioning benefits. BOMAG Intelligent Compaction has evolved over the past two decades so that we can offer true “smart” drums that automatically react and adapt its energy, depending on the varying worksite and/or material conditions. Intelligent Compaction technology allows the drum vibration energy to be directed or vectored in six directions. Printed or electronic documentation along with real-time “mapping” data also is provided to the operator. This data references the soil or asphalt stiffness values, temperatures and more of the compacted area. The end result to the customer is to achieve target density levels in the most efficient manner while maintaining a record of events.
Another advancement in road building equipment has been the incorporation of drum vibration isolation. Drum vibration energy can damage equipment if it is not channeled properly into the compactable material on the job site. Significant research, development and testing are required to ensure that proper drum and operator cockpit isolation is achieved. Proper isolation positively affects an operator’s productivity and reduces fatigue.
An increase in frequency for asphalt compaction also has resulted in equipment changes. Utilizing a higher vibration frequency, equipment vibration per minute (vpm) equates to a tighter impact spacing result between the vibrating drum and the asphalt material. More impacts per linear foot, typically targeted at 10 to 14, yields a smoother finished pavement that can typically earn contractors bonus income.
There are several other advancements that have taken place over the years, but one of the main continuous needs has been to improve operator comfort in order to enhance productivity. These advancements include fully enclosed cabins with heat and air conditioning, and modern seat designs that include adjustable armrests, headrests, swivel capability and air ride suspension. Road building typically entails night paving, so the introduction of halogen lights to maximize illumination is an important advancement.
RM: In general, rental penetration has been growing as more construction companies see the benefits of renting. What percentage of BOMAG’s road construction equipment is sold into the rental channel?
Mueckler: Our customer base is primarily comprised of
three major segments — our traditional dealer network, independent rental companies and national rental companies. It is important to note that all three of these customer segments implement a rent-to-rent business strategy and when taking into account the cumulative volume for these respective businesses, about 80 percent of what we manufacture is initiated in a rental application.
RM: Has this percentage changed in recent years and do you see the rental market becoming more important this year and beyond?
Mueckler: As mentioned earlier, due to the economic crisis and subsequent credit challenges brought on by our lending institutions, the demand for rental has definitely increased over the years and is projected to continue to increase in the years ahead. Penetration will likely be in the 90 percent range for compaction equipment. During the market decline, too many contractors were caught with high equipment inventory levels and I fully expect these end users to take a more cautious approach in the future to owning equipment, which will serve as a nice tailwind for the rental industry.