“Damn this traffic jam, how I hate to be late, it hurts my motor to go so slow, time I get home my supper be cold, damn this traffic jam!”
Probably not many of you remember that James Taylor song from the late 1970s, but most of you can relate to the sentiment. I live in Los Angeles, so I certainly can, more than most. In fact, when I travel around the country, sometimes what many of you consider bad traffic looks like an easy cruise from my perspective!
But that bad traffic is a bigger problem than the fact that it's hard on your car's engine, or that you might get home late, or you might have to leave your house a few minutes earlier to get to work on time. According to a recent study by the Associated General Contractors of America, traffic congestion and the delays it causes are costing the nation's construction firms about $23 billion a year.
Construction companies report that traffic tie-ups delay the average construction project at least one day, and one in three firms report that traffic adds a minimum of three days to the length of the average project. According to the AGC study, three-quarters of contractors say congestion adds more than 1 percent to their total costs, and one in 10 say traffic adds 11 percent or more to their cost of doing business.
Obviously rental companies already know this. It takes you longer to deliver equipment, it costs more time and fuel and wear and tear on your delivery vehicles. While many rental companies have countered this problem with improved dispatching systems that cut delivery costs, those efficiency gains are being undermined by the simple reality that it takes longer to get places than it used to, and the situation is likely to get worse before it gets any better.
One great hope is Congress acting on long-delayed legislation that would set national surface transportation policy and funding levels over the next six years. The legislation is critical for allowing states to plan complex, long-term highway and transit projects designed to cut congestion. If those projects can't get off the ground, traffic will continue to worsen and, more significantly, construction companies will have less work and so will rental companies.
So next time you're stuck in traffic, remember — and I'm sure most of you already know this — that a lot more is at stake than you getting home in time for dinner or to watch a game on TV. All of our livelihoods are at stake in this process.
As the husband of a social worker who specializes in autism and whose professional career has always been devoted to helping people with handicaps of one kind or another, the plight of those less fortunate is a constant topic around my household.
I think I'm like a lot of people in that respect. We care, we give what we can where we can but the struggle for daily survival dominates. That's certainly the case for people operating as challenging and consuming a business as equipment rental. Is a 10-hour day unusual for you? How about 12? More sometimes? Based on the hundreds of rental people I've known over the years, I already know the answer to that.
For those and many more reasons, what so many rental companies have done with “coloring equipment for a cause” commitments is really admirable. It really hits home when a certain illness happens to someone close to you. It's normal. If your mother or wife or sister or close friend dies or suffers from breast cancer, you feel motivated. If you have a child with a disability, the desire to see advances in the treatment of that disability can become your primary concern in life besides work. But you've got a business to run; you don't have hours and hours to devote to a cause. So you put your equipment to work for you. You may not be able to have all the revenue from that piece be a donation but whatever portion you can, you do.
Please check out Brandey Smith's article on Page 14 and keep in mind that if you have a cause that interests you, there are many ways you, through your business, can help. You don't necessarily have to paint an aerial lift; there are many ways you can help your community with equipment donations or community support.
Donating equipment to support charity or local organizations has been common in the rental industry for decades, and I'm glad to see it increasing now. In addition to raising money for good causes, the goodwill you generate can come back to help you in many ways.