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On-demand forklifts help with the Victorian Bushfire Emergency

Supplier: General Equipment Rentals
18 March, 2009

The beauty of providing forklifts for hire on-demand is that equipment is ready to go anywhere and be put into action at very short notice.

Barry Hibbert, the managing director of General Equipment Rentals, has managed to build a successful business out of offering this service and that is why he was able to act quickly when forklifts were needed to help with the recent Victorian bushfires.

 “When we were called upon recently by the Salvation Army to help with forklift equipment for the Victorian Bushfire Emergency, GE immediately donated two forklifts, fully maintained, for as long as they needed them. We were also able to assist the Lions Club when they rang at 5pm and advised us that eight semi-trailers were arriving from interstate that night, with more supplies, and they needed our equipment. Because we have our own transport, we had the unit delivered within the hour.”

Starting off in the forklift industry

Hibbert started working in the forklift industry in 1965, when forklifts were still in the early stages of manual transmission and had no power steering.

Then in 1979, he made the decision to start his own company and began General Equipment Sales from a home office in Bentleigh.

“Starting at 4am in the morning, I concentrated selling to the newly built wholesale fruit and vegetable market in West Melbourne, as forklifts were becoming the 'had to have item' in this industry,” he remembers.

“Within two years I had purchased a factory in Cheltenham. With all other forklift companies focusing mainly on sales and long-terms rentals, I noticed there was a void in the industry for casual rental to the 'on demand hirer'. None of the major suppliers had excess equipment put aside for casual rental.”

“Casual hire was seen as more of an inconvenience and the only units available were traded-in forklifts. They were mostly old and unreliable and would often break down when being used.”

Carving a niche in on-demand hire

He soon discovered that he could really service the 'on-demand hirer'.

“The 'on demand hirer' is the customer who requires equipment to carry out a job for one day to a month or more, or when extra production is required and he/she needs equipment through a peak period. We started to service this particular requirement in 1982 with the formation of General Equipment Rentals.”

“As our reputation for reliable service grew, some of our major clients became the other Forklift and Access Hire companies when they had to sub-hire to cover excess rental requirements. Over the past twenty years, we have built a trust with our competitors to become their preferred cross hire supplier. Besides other industries we supply, such as event management, re-location companies and contractors, we have always looked after the smaller business that does not own a forklift, but hires in for the day with the same low rate and reliable service provided to the major companies.”

“We carry the largest range of slip-on and hydraulic attachments, such as safety cages for stock taking, container ramps to hire with container masted forklifts, crane jibs for building sites, and rotating forks.”

With customers now in both the manufacturing and construction industries, GE was continually asked to provide scissor lifts and other access equipment.

“In the year 2000, I purchased a significant fleet of new Genie Scissor lifts and Boom equipment. This fleet has continued to grow over the past eight years. The next requirement we were asked about was rough terrain forklifts and telehandlers and in the last four years we have purchased over a million dollars worth of new equipment. We have also recently purchased twenty new Eight Series Toyota forklifts to add to our predominantly Toyota hire fleet.”

Hibbert's fleet has rapidly expanded. The company now has over 400 Forklifts and Access Units, with a further 350 attachment and miscellaneous items available for casual rental.

GE offers a different kind of service

Hibbert says his company differs from all the other hire companies because it can always deliver when and where the hirer needs it.

“We own and control our fleet of tilt-tray equipment and drivers. Most others hire companies use outside transport for deliveries and do not have control over drivers or their equipment. When a contractor wants to start at 6am with his crew, we do not leave them waiting for the equipment before they can start. We continually get this feedback from our customers. When they have to have it on site and on time, they will always call GE.”

Despite the current economic gloom, General Equipment Rentals experienced a record breaking year in 2008. And although the predictions are for a downturn in the economy, Hibbert says that short term and casual rentals will probably increase as companies are reluctant to commit to purchasing new equipment.

“GE does not lock you into long-term contracts, when it comes to casual and short-term hire. My aim has always been to give better delivery service to the casual rental market than my competitor. In the last month, we put another new Volvo Slide-Back Tilt-tray into service to ensure we could maintain our 'on time' delivery service to our growing customer base.”

“We also have a significant advantage over our competitors due to our availability of good quality used and second-hand forklifts and equipment. Casual hire has less operating hours than long-term hire. Most of our equipment is also pre-hire checked every week. This, together with routine servicing, produces a second-hand forklift that is in far superior condition to any trade-in. We fully re-spray our units to its original condition and back this up with our 3-month unconditional guarantee.”

While larger companies are re-structuring and retrenching staff, Hibbert's company is currently employing more. His view is that if you do not have adequate staff, then you cannot offer the service. So it sounds like his company is in a good position to do well this year, despite the current economic climate.