From this year's rental rates survey there is a clear feeling that the long–awaited upturn in the US crane rental industry could be about to happen. As shown by the success reported by crane manufacturers at the recent ConExpo exhibition, rental companies are beginning to invest in feet upgrades and expansion. Manufacturers are also receiving more enquiries about crawler cranes, an under performing sector in the market for some time.

Crane increase

The most positive signal in this year's survey was from the randomly selected US respondents. Of all the countries questioned around the world, only they said they would not be reducing the size of their crane feets over the next last 12 month changes also reflected on the average rental rate for a 100 ton capacity mobile crane.

As the table shows, American crane owners enjoy the highest weekly rate for a 12 months. However, 78 said that they planned a minor increase in feet size, while 17 said they would neither increase nor decrease.

The positive figures are also reflected in answers for the previous 12 months, where only four companies stated that they had reduced feet size. Fifty–six reported a minor increase and 13 a major increase.

Survey results on 2005 prospects make positive reading as US predictions were much more optimistic than those from other countries: 61 respondents forecast there a minor increase in rental rates this year and four a major rise. Th irty companies said that rates will remain unchanged, while only four said there will be a slight decrease in prices. It may be optimistic, the responses for the previous 12 months suggests crane rental rates in North America are on the up. Of the companies asked, 48 said their prices had risen; 13 said rates had dropped.

Responses from US and Canadian companies were among the most positive in the survey. Although there is some optimism in, for example, Australia, India and the UK, US results were consistently more positive. This is also reffected on the average rental rate for a 100 ton capacity mobile crane.

As the table shows, American crane owners enjoy the highest weekly rate for a 100 ton capacity mobile crane–an average of US$ 8,900. Australian owners record the second highest price, at US$ 8,600, followed by a European average of $ 7,100. Countries in the Asia–Pacific region fare the worst, with a 100 ton capacity crane earning $ 27,00 a week, about one third than what the same crane earns in the US and Canada. According to US companies, US rates will rise by the time the 2006 survey is published.

Crane utilization rates around the world also make interesting reading. US companies are outperformed by others in some regions. Average utilization, globally, for a 50 ton mobile crane is 70%, 60% for a 100 tonner, and 56% for a 150 ton machine. Th at decline, linked to the size of the crane, is to be expected, but as the table illustrates, there are wide variations in utilization rates around the world. The Middle East, for example, has a 25% higher rate for a 50 ton crane than the US.

Another interesting result is the average utilization rate, which is always in the 60% range, for any type of crane in the survey. Looking at the figures for Asia Pacific, however, fluctuations of up to 30% can be seen, depending on the size of the crane.

All in all, the US rental market certainly looks “the place to be” over the next year, and it will be most interesting to see if the changes forecast by those who know the industry best–crane users–will materialize.

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