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Interview with Brian LaLonde: The Sweet Spot of Rentals

Jan. 14, 2021
RER recently interviewed dozens of rental leaders about the effects of the pandemic. Brian LaLonde, CEO of LaLonde Equipment Rental in Signal Hill, Calif., talks about delays in the bidding process, the shutting down of jobs, and more.

RER recently interviewed dozens of rental leaders about the effects of the pandemic. Brian LaLonde, CEO of LaLonde Equipment Rental in Signal Hill, Calif., talks about delays in the bidding process, the shutting down of jobs, and more.

RER: How was 2020 for LaLonde Equipment?

LaLonde: 2020 has been a great year for us. I actually feel guilty because so many industries and individuals are struggling but we have been very fortunate. We did have some jobs temporarily shut down in the beginning of the pandemic like the Rams SoFi Stadium, but infrastructure work is classified as essential in California so we have been busy.

What kind of activity do you expect for 2021?

I do expect there to be a slowdown in 2021. Our customers are saying the bidding process is seeing delays, cut margins and more competition. We will most likely see this trickle down to us by the second or third quarter of 2021.

How has the pandemic affected and changed your company’s ability to meet with customers, go on jobsites and essentially conduct rental business as you always have?

Our focus on heavy highway contractors has allowed us to continue working with only a few changes. We stopped in-person visits to jobsites and offices by our sales team. In addition, we now sanitize all machines between rentals. Our operation has always been done remotely. We don't have customers come to our branches and 99 percent of all our rentals are delivered by our trucks. Our biggest concern has been our employees bringing the virus to work. We have stressed the importance of social distancing here at work and at home and as of today we have not had any cases.

This is a very uncertain time in the economy in regard to the pandemic and so many job cancelations. Does this uncertainty benefit rental in the sense that contractors would want to avoid capital expenditures on equipment and would therefore rent more?   

The sweet spot for rental companies is when the contractor has work on the books but there is uncertainty about the future. For us, 2020 has been a good example of this. Unfortunately, I think this cycle is coming to an end. If we do experience a "V" shaped recovery, we will be seeing growth again before we know it!