Piper Jaffray, in partnership with RER, announced the proprietary Rental Sentiment Index for the month of March registered 6.3, accelerating from last month's 6.1 reading to reflect robust expectations of equipment rental demand in the spring following a harsh winter.

The 6.3 reading is consistent with prior months’ readings, which have all indicated modest-to-moderate market expansion. Moderate industry growth is ideal because it encourages the ongoing secular penetration of rentals and mitigates against over-investment in the rental fleet, according to industry analysts.

The Rental Sentiment Survey, which gauges the outlook of the construction equipment rental industry, polls industry executives for their expectations on rental revenues, rates, volumes, utilization, capital expenditures and the general outlook for the rental industry. The Rental Sentiment Index is standardized on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 signaling a significant downturn and 10 signaling significant expansion in the current calendar year.

This month’s slight uptick, after a few months of a slight-downward trend, is an indication that industry participants expect to see an increase in rentals in the next few months.

Respondents indicate there is "pent up demand due to deep frost and snow fall" and that "spring will probably hit hard and fast."

Industry analysts agree. “There are strong expectations for a robust start to spring,” George Tong, research analyst, Piper Jaffray, said. “There is a large backlog and pipeline pent up from the winter that was especially harsh.But what we are seeing is more than just a large backlog and pipeline pent up from a winter that was especially harsh.”

The positive outlook extends beyond spring and into the rest of the year. “More than just backlog, there is an overall enthusiasm. More people expect 2014 to be at least as good as 2013. The average expectation for industry growth also accelerated,” Tong said.

Positive industry expectations for the spring have extended to improved sentiment for the full year. Survey respondents now expect rental industry growth to be up 6.9 percent in 2014, up from 6.2 percent last month.

Rental executives in the March survey indicate "growth is continuing in all sectors" with "strong demand for earth moving and aerial as well as concrete items."

The survey results are “reflective of an ongoing multi-year growth cycle in non-residential construction activity,” Tong said.