The equipment rental industry in North America, referred to in some instances as Plant Hire, is responsible for supplying industrial and do-it-yourself machinery and equipment to a variety of different users and industries. From small scale home improvement projects to construction projects building the world's tallest buildings, equipment rental suppliers operate a service whereby machinery and tools can be delivered to users upon request and removed by the supplier when their use is no longer required. As such, days of many builders maintaining large inventories of various machines and employing trained professionals to operate them is a practice of the past, save for all but the larges and most diversified of contracting companies.
The machinery rental concept is actually only a half-century old. In the 1950's the first equipment rental suppliers began appearing in North America. By the 1970's consolidation of various firms created bigger players with national exposure and brand recognition.
The industry has enjoyed growth particularly among builders and general contractors who opt to rent machinery rather than invest in depreciating assets that require a fleet of vehicles capable of moving equipment from job site to job site. This allows less storage space for a firm during construction down times and more flexibility at specific job sites and cost-control measures whereby maintenance and upkeep of rented equipment is typically the responsibility of the machinery supplier. Another benefit of renting machinery is the option to have it delivered with a trained operator. This not only improves the efficiency of the machines use at a site, it does away with a general contractor having to hire and maintain an additional worker and ensure compliance with various trade requirements and safety regulations.
Do-it-yourself users of equipment also benefit by not having to purchase what may be costly tools and machinery to complete jobs around their property and or on small job sites. And access to such rentals for the do-it-yourself user or small business operator has been greatly improved through rental showrooms located within or near home improvement stores and super centers, such as showrooms operated by Sunbelt Rentals. Such showrooms appeal both to commercial and private customers.
The United States government has also expressed greater interest in renting machinery. For many of the same reasons private contractors prefer to rent, governmental departments are also becoming more cognizant of carrying costs, referred to by the U.S. General Services Administration as a "burden," of various machines and the human capital required to operate and transport them.