The answer may surprise you.
By Brian Hall
2023 has certainly been a great year to be in the asphalt business. What started out to be the most significant supply chain challenge we may ever see has turned into a hot market. As a manufacturer, we have had to juggle workforce issues, rising raw material costs and lack of parts all while demand is as high as we have seen in a while. What should be a time of deciding what machines you may need to invest in for tax purposes has turned into a juggling act of forecasting work and finding a machine. What used to be an easy job of heading to your local dealer’s showroom floor and kicking tires is now a job of relying on the next shipment.
So what is a smart business person to do? While the answer is not an easy one, the solution doesn’t have to keep you up at night. Now more than ever you must rely on relationships. Relationships with your colleagues in the industry, relationships with the factories and relationships with the local dealerships. This month, let’s discuss the thought process that goes into looking at asphalt equipment and the pitfalls that come with that process. Like every other business decision, there is not one clear cut answer for every contractor. Every situation is different, and every solution is different.
Do you rebuild your current equipment? While the newest models might seem appealing, your current machine might just need a makeover. Asphalt paving equipment, especially the paver, is different than any other piece of construction equipment. The continuous heating and cooling of components, not to mention working with hot materials in the middle of summer, takes its toll on the steel and rubber hose components that make up the machine. The winter months are a perfect time to consult with your local equipment dealer to do your rebuild. The shops are less busy and under less of a time crunch so it’s the prime time. Many times, just a tune-up of the components is all you will need to stretch the life of your machine. A qualified, factory trained technician can look at your equipment and quickly tell how deep he will have to go.
Is a used machine the way to go? Just like with automobiles, the used equipment market is hot right now. While there are many great machines on the market, there are quite a few out there that just have a “new paint overhaul.” But how are you to know the difference? Many dealers keep a good amount of used machines in stock when they can and can many times offer a type of “certified pre-owned” type of guarantee with these machines. But many times, the machine you are looking at is at a 3rd party or some other private seller. In this case, you have to know what your are looking at or know someone who does. Never be afraid to take a qualified set of eyes with you when you inspect a machine. And, just like with anything else, be ready to walk away if something doesn’t seem right. An experienced technician can look quickly at a machine and know what should be done before putting your investment to work. Remember, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
When is a new machine the right decision? In many cases, you may decide that you will need a new piece of asphalt equipment. Dealers are selling new machines as fast as they come in and with your relationship they know what you’ll need when you need it and can work with the factory to make sure they know your needs. Many dealers have forecasted properly and have a stock of machines on order and will put your name on the right machine for you. The trap you don’t want to get caught in is buying a machine that’s not just right for you. That will never pay off and will cause more problems than solutions. Another key is to demo the machine you are considering. Make sure that what you think you need is, in fact, the machine for your business today and 3 years down the road.
There’s no magic wand or catch all solution. The best business solution in this marketplace is to plan ahead and plan smart. Talk to dealers, colleagues and do your research so that when the 2024 season starts, you are ready to hit the asphalt running.
Brian Hall, LeeBoy Territory Manager. He can be reached via email at Brian.Hall@Leeboy.com