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Equipment rental operators gather to discuss the future of the industry

By Lauren Watts

February 12, 2023

Future of Equipment RentalFuture of Equipment Rental kicked off The ARA Show™, bringing more than 300 equipment rental professionals together in Orlando. The day’s programming was born from the success of the virtual event, ARA RentalTech 2020, hosted by the American Rental Association (ARA).  

Tom Doyle, ARA vice president of program development, was pleased with the turnout.  

“We know how important these topics are to our members and we’re proud of the lineup of speakers we pulled together to share their knowledge,” he says. “Technology, electrification and fleet management will all affect efficiency and the customers. The future success of rental operators will be tied to operational efficiency and the customer experience.” 

The keynote session headlined by Dale Asplund, chief operating officer, United Rentals, and Steve Jones, senior director, industry insights, Dodge Data & Analytics, focused on the tools operators need to move their businesses forward and how technology is affecting the rental industry and will affect it in the future.  

“Project owners are beginning to contractually demand that contractors show up ready to work digitally,” Jones says. “Those are your customers. You want to support your customers on their digital journey. Hopefully you can help move them along in their journey because doing so will help you enhance your relationships with them.” 

Asplund reinforced the importance of implementing technology only when it makes sense for the customers. 

“If you don’t adapt and adopt technology, someday your customers will notice inefficiencies and question your ability to be their best partner,” Asplund says. “Our opportunity to implement technology is to help our employees do their jobs and service our customers better. Our customers need to feel their experience is always improving. Lastly, we have to use data, and data over time, to run our businesses better and help our customers run their businesses better,” he adds. 

“As a newer rental operator, only four years in, I was excited to come today and learn,” says Korinne Talham, Pastore Rental Equipment, Hudson Falls, N.Y. “I’m now challenged to figure out how to integrate what we learned today about technology and use it at our small operation in our local area.” 

Future of Equipment RentalNext, attendees heard from a panel of contractors focused on various construction projects who explained their decision-making processes when they choose rental partners. Each one said the most important factors were safe equipment for their operators and reliable and modern equipment. A close second is the service they receive from the rental operation — they are looking for a good, honest partner.  

Rob Pederson, A Tool Shed, Santa Cruz, Calif., said it was great to hear from contractors. 

“I appreciated the contractors taking their time to come and give us insight and feedback,” he says. “Perspectives from customers are invaluable and it was really interesting to see their take on our industry and how they make decisions.” 

In the afternoon, attendees heard from ARA members and professionals who serve the industry. They shared the importance of fleet management and how technology will affect the future of rental operations.  

Steve Mau, Brainerd General Rental, Brainerd, Minn., and ARA president-elect; Rob Wilson, Stephenson’s Rental Services, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Jeff Lignugaris, Northside Tool Rental, Atlanta; and Al Halvorsen, Sunbelt Rentals, Fort Mill, S.C., shared ways their companies have integrated technology — including pitfalls and successes.  

The day’s education concluded with roundtable discussions among attendees where everyone shared their ideas about technology integration and how it will affect their businesses in the future.  

Dan Fielitz, General Rent-All, Massillon, Ohio, said Future of Equipment Rental already made the weekend education worth it. “I was on the fence about attending the education sessions on Sunday,” he says. “But when I saw the agenda for Saturday’s Future of Equipment Rental, I knew I had to come and it’s already made the weekend worth it.”