Lift truck user survey: How customers acquire, maintain and replenish their fleets
Purchase vs. lease
For instance, 60% of respondents indicate they typically buy equipment outright, although the average number of units acquired through direct purchase is 52%. However, the average number of leased units is 48%, although just 21% of respondents say they typically lease. McKean predicts the third group of respondents, the 19% who said their decision to buy or lease depends on the lift truck and the situation, will likely grow in coming years.
“Those are the companies that are thinking as opposed to reacting,” says McKean. Some respondents cited corporate policy to only buy or only lease equipment, a practice McKean strongly cautions against.
“One of the good things about financing is it forces someone to plan for an end, when each lift truck needs to be retired, replaced or recycled,” he says. “Buying does not require that discipline and you can end up with customers with equipment from companies that no longer exist. For some customers, a lift truck might have 20,000 hours and $100,000 in repairs, but if it is on a long-term depreciation schedule then it is locked-in and those numbers are irrelevant.”
As opposed to blanket policies, McKean recommends customers with more than two trucks establish a core fleet. “They should be thinking about planning in one way for the core fleet and planning in a different way for whatever else might be needed to support seasonal fluctuations in demand,” he says. “There are not enough companies looking at the concept of a core fleet, which can save a lot of time and money.”
Pairing the right acquisition practice to the right truck begins with improving fleet visibility, which can often require capital outlays, process improvements and new technology. The study reflects a tepid growth in customer interest in fleet management technology, yet a budding interest that McKean has also seen among his clients.
“When a customer who has always bought suddenly comes in and asks about financing, something has happened within their corporation,” says McKean, who says these decisions typically follow the customers’ collection of new fleet metrics. “In the past five years, we have customers that are looking for data beyond the hour meter for the first time.”