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Covid crashes plant sales

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Construction and earthmoving equipment sales in the UK have been devastated by Covid-19.

Sales in March crashed by 45% compared with the same month last year as a result of the crisis. Combined with single digit falls in January and February it took the over-all reduction for the first quarter to 22%.

First quarter sales were just under 6,300 units compared with more than 8,000 last year. In March, however, the number was below 1,800 units, a reduction of 1,400 over the same month in 2019.

The most popular equipment type – mini and midi excavators up to 10 tonnes – weathered the storm better than most, showing only a 9% fall. All other types of equipment experienced decreases of at least 27% with compaction rollers the biggest sufferer, down by more than 60% over the first three months in 2019.

The construction equipment statistics exchange is run by Systematics International in partnership with the Construction Equipment Association.

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Only 10% of CEA firms working as normal

More than 70% of plant companies are working at reduced levels and 18% have closed their businesses temporarily because of Covid-19.

The worrying statistics are revealed in a survey by the Construction Equipment Association (CEA) to gauge the impact of the crisis on member companies. Just 10% of respondents said production had not yet been affected.

Percentages of office staffing levels were slightly different; 14% said it was ‘as you were’ while 80% of companies had reduced staff levels and the remainder had no staff working at all.

The poll also revealed that the percentage of the total workforce that has been furloughed and placed on the HMRC Job Retention Scheme was an average of 48% across all respondents. On Monday of last week, more than 140,000 firms had applied for the UK government’s job retention scheme.

Feedback from ‘niche’ market members, such as component manufacturers, indicates that sales are holding up with steady exports to the USA and China. However, air and sea freight is difficult to find, is unreliable and subject to cancellations. The companies are also picking up unfulfilled UK orders from Italy, France, and China.

Component manufacturers believe the crisis ‘should’ trigger a UK-wide reshoring strategy and are expecting a post-COVID-19 strengthening of the supply chain.

Reports from SMEs indicate they are better prepared to face business disruption and are more flexible and also carrying larger inventory, although some are suffering from delayed customer payments.

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Construction workers abused by public

The Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum is taking action to prevent key workers being harassed while carrying out vital projects.

The organisation will offer free site signage to help workers make it clear to the public they are carrying out essential work only. The move comes in the wake of incidents where workers have been intimidated and verbally abused by the public while carrying out legitimate projects in line with guidelines.

One contractor said: “On one commercial job, our engineers were subjected to a barrage of abuse by residents and staff. Our guys were upset and didn’t want to be there, so in the end, the local authority had to put up posters explaining that we were carrying out essential work. It was the only way our engineers could be left alone to do the work.

“Not all essential work is obvious to the public, but that is no excuse for the behaviour that some of us in the construction industry are having to put up with.”

John McKinney, secretary of the Scottish Contractors Group, commented: “Essential construction work is not confined to building a major hospital for COVID-19, but we know that people might not be aware of this. There are dozens of other construction works that are classed as essential to keep the fabric of Scotland intact.

“Greater understanding is needed among the public to understand that the key workers carrying out such work aren’t flouting the rules – they are performing essential tasks and should be allowed to do so without fear of abuse.”

The forum has compiled a list of essential work allowed to be carried out, including repair and construction of critical road and utility infrastructure.

See also: ‘Pay suppliers on time’. Click here for more…

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Two more shows bite the dust

Two industry shows due to be held in The Netherlands in June are the latest victims of the Covid-19 crisis.

The APEX and IRE exhibitions have been rescheduled for June 15-17 June, 2021 at the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre (MECC).

The European Rental Association has also confirmed cancellation until next year of its convention which was to take place alongside IRE.

The decision on the two events was taken after discussions with exhibitors, contractors and supporting associations and follows the Dutch Government’s extension until September 1 of its ban on public events.

The judging process for the European Rental Awards was already well advanced and the aim is to announce the winners this year under a format yet to be agreed.

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©Scottish Plant.  Article posted 29/4/2020