Aging Aggregate Equipment
Anecdotally as well as statistically, maintenance, maintenance, maintenance is the mantra of survey respondents. One describes his greatest challenge as “major maintenance that has been deferred due to economic conditions resulting in high capital maintenance requirements.” To address the issue, his operation is applying maintenance items to plant costs and prioritizing repairs. Other common strategies described by respondents include rebuilding equipment at mid-life, rotating older equipment out of production, and spending more time on preventive maintenance. Another respondent notes he is “keeping careful observation of high maintenance items and researching methods, practice, and materials that will extend work life and operating cost of those items.”
In addition to maintenance investments, other equipment categories likely to see an increase in spending include crushers (34.6 percent), wheel loaders (30.5 percent), automation/technology (32.1 percent), and conveyors (32.1 percent). Categories in which respondents say they are likely to decrease capital expenditures include dredges (23.3 percent), Class 8 haul trucks (16.7 percent), and dozers (15.7 percent).
Chart 1. Replacement value of current equipment.
Less than $1 million — 13/5%
$1,000,001 to $5 million — 29.2%
$5,000,001 to $10 million — 13.5%
$10 million to $25 million — 12.5%
More than $25 million — 31.3%
Nearly one in three respondents have equipment fleets valued at more than $25 million.
It is also important to differentiate between day-to-day spending on consumable items such as tires, belts, and wear materials versus long-term capital expenditures. When asked what percentage of capital expenditure dollars will be spent on long-term equipment purchases, 60 percent of respondents said 1 to 20 percent, 25.5 percent said 21 to 40 percent, 5.5 percent said 41 to 60 percent, 7.3 percent said 61 to 80 percent, and 1.8 percent say 81 to 100 percent. Over the next 12 months, nearly 23 percent of these respondents say they expect to shift more of their equipment budgets toward long-term equipment investments.
New vs. used
Although operators are considering ways to upgrade their iron, the solution isn’t necessarily as simple as purchasing new equipment. Historically, financing of used equipment units has outpaced that of new units, and this is especially true in recent years. Increasing the complexity of the procurement process are options such as equipment rentals or leases.
When asked about new equipment purchases planned for the next 12 months, respondents say they are most likely to purchase screen media (42.7 percent), automation/technology (34.5 percent), wheel loaders (29.1 percent), screen boxes (22.7 percent), and conveyors (22.7 percent). The top two categories are intuitive new equipment purchases; screen media are consumable items, while automation is a rapidly evolving equipment category which many operators are using to help lower their personnel costs. With features such as higher fuel efficiency, greater capacities, and improved technology, new equipment purchases appear to have remained the preferred purchase option for those with the financial resources to do so. Some admit, however, to being intimidated by the technology in the latest generation of machinery.
Buying plans for used equipment during the next year vary slightly. Respondents in this category say they are most likely to purchase conveyors (14.5 percent), crushers (13.6 percent), off-highway trucks (11.8 percent), wheel loaders (11.8 percent), and portable plants (10.9 percent). Of these five types of equipment, only portable plants are more likely to be purchased used (10.9 percent), rather than new (9.1 percent).
When it comes to equipment rental or lease, respondents are most likely to exercise these options for off-highway haul trucks (8.2 percent), excavators (7.3 percent), and portable plants (6.4 percent). Responses may indicate the use of rentals and leases for short-term contract jobs, such as road work. In each equipment category, respondents are much more likely to purchase new or used equipment than rent or lease it, although some say they are selling off high-hour machines and supplementing with leases in the short term. Others lease equipment and purchase low-hour units at the end of the lease as a strategy to help defray the cost of new equipment.
We also asked operators about the impact of engine emissions and how Tier 4 Interim and Tier 4 Final rules will influence their equipment buying decisions. Nearly one in five respondents say they plan to purchase earlier versions of equipment before new requirements take effect, while 10 percent say they plan to wait to see how it performs in the field before investing in new engine technologies. The vast majority (68.2 percent), however, say necessity, not engine technology, will drive their equipment procurement.