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Plant hire industry is caught in a vicious circle


Sir, YOUR recent article reporting Vibroplant's decision to pull out of the UK hire business underlines the unviable hire rates at present.

Only this week we were told by one major contractor on the CTRL Project that, unless we hire our concrete pumps for £32 per hour, we cannot work on the project.

This rate is £3 per hour - or 10 per cent - less than we obtained more than 10 years ago.

Over that period, there has been minimal civil engineering work in the South-East, compounded by a host of rising costs that have affected our industry.

Apart from our hire rates, it seems that the only thing to have gone down during the past decade are interest rates.

Everything else has risen: fuel; insurance premium tax; the extra administration costs of the CIS scheme, coupled with the need for workers to have CITB licenses to operate our machines - we put all our operators through the HGV test.

If we work for £32 per hour with a machine that costs in excess of £150,000 to buy, based on a minimum five-hour hire, we will receive only £160, plus £20 each way for transport, making a total of £200.

We then are expected to pump 10 cu m of concrete that costs about £65 per cu m.

How do you justify putting £6,500 through a machine only to get paid £200?

And if you break down and fail to supply another pump, you are contra charged.

I pay my drivers £15 an hour because they are simply the best. Other firms are paying their drivers just £7 per hour, but a labourer in London receives £9 to £12 per hour, sometimes just to sweep a floor.

None of this makes sense and the plant hire industry must wake up and sort itself out.

It's just not the concrete pump hire business that is at fault - it is all sectors.

The charge for hiring a JCB worth £36,000 with an operator is currently £14.50 per hour, whereas a skilled plumber with a van and a few tools commands £25 to £30 per hour.

A carpenter with a bag of tools is also getting £15 per hour - 50p an hour more than you might pay for an expensive machine with an experienced driver.

There is something drastically wrong.

It's not the fault of the carpenters or the bricklayers or the labourer with the broom - it's the plant hire industry's fault.

N Lambert Director, Gazewing Plant Aylesford, Kent