Creators and Inventors

Nov. 11, 2013

One of the true innovative pioneers of the rental industry, John Doran, passed away this past weekend. You can read our obituary at: I didn’t know him well, just a little. When I got started covering the rental industry, I learned much about the philosophy of Rental Tools and Equipment from talking with his son John Jr., who is still very much involved in the equipment industry with his own company Centreville Manufacturing.

Doran Sr. was one of those early pioneers of the equipment rental industry who got involved in renting tools and equipment by accident and started doing it as a business before there was such a thing as a rental industry. Doran was always mechanically inclined, sort of a tinkerer one might say, using tools to fix things. When he was in college, as John Jr. explains, he got tired of people borrowing his tools and not returning them so he started to rent them. In 1950, he started an equipment rental company out of his house and it eventually grew into one of the biggest in the country.

Doran was always an inventor, a trait John Jr. inherited. At Rental Tools & Equipment, they constantly developed new machines and modifications and attachments to take care of customers’ problems. He was a creator, a problem solver, an inventor, a solutions person. He even started a manufacturing company to manufacture specialty machines his customers were asking for that didn’t exist, and that’s how EDCO, a company most of you know well, was born.

John Doran also developed a catalog, which his company would give out to anyone who would ask. I remember getting a copy of it back in the 90s and the catalog had hundreds of different attachments and modified pieces of equipment and tools I’d never heard of anywhere else or seen at any other rental company. I wish I had a copy of it now to go through and share some of the inventions with you.

I remember John Jr. explaining the Rental Tools & Equipment philosophy very simply. Rental Tools was not just a rental company serving construction contractors. They believed that RT&E had some piece of equipment or tool for any building in the country. Whatever kind of business you could name, RT&E had something it would need. And if they didn’t they could probably make something that would be needed. Maybe if equipment rental salespeople would market more creatively and didn’t just spend all their time competing with every other rental company to rent the exact same machines to the exact same customer base, rental rates wouldn’t be so low. Maybe rental salespeople would do more to expand the rental pie, rather than just rent on price.

OK, I won’t get on a soapbox!

John Jr. has continued the philosophy at Centreville Manufacturing. I saw John Jr. not long ago and I introduced John to someone by saying “John has a trailer manufacturing business.” I was quickly corrected! Centreville is far more than a trailer manufacturer, it is a company of inventors. Yes they make custom-fabricated trailers, but they also invent solutions to customer needs. Robotic machines that place and pick up traffic cones, low-angle tilt trailers with half the climb angle of regular tilt trailers, reel trailers, solar/wind generators, modular enclosure panels, a portable carpenters’ workshop, a trailer that becomes a battery-powered LED traffic signal for use following a disaster, a “pole trailer" custom-designed for the lumber/tree trimming industry, custom-designed diesel generator trailers, and a whole lot more. (You can check these and other innovative items at

And, by the way, if you decide to call Centreville, you won’t get voicemail. You’ll get to talk to a real person on the other end. Doesn’t happen every day, does it?

So here’s to the Dorans — creative Irishmen who like to laugh and tackle life’s problems with a creative spirit. We need more like them.