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Mankind has been using heavy equipment of one kind or another for thousands of years. To build wonders of the world such as the Pyramids and Great Wall of China, it was normally operated using horses or slaves. The earliest record of the leasing of equipment occurred in 2010 B.C in a Sumerian city called Ur, where, as well as worshipping their gods, a group of enterprising priests also began to rent out agricultural equipment to local farmers.
The Internal Combustion Engine
It was not until the invention of the internal combustion engine that modern plant and heavy machinery as we know it today became possible, allowing us to build 20th-century wonders of the world such as the Millennium Dome and the Olympic Park in London.
The Law Lags Behind
For many hundreds of years, personal property was not legally recognised under English common law, with possession of personal property carrying with it implied ownership. However, as society developed and became increasingly industrialised, courts eventually recognised the need for commercial businesses to use property they did not own outright, and developed the idea of bailments, which were the forerunner to the laws which govern the hire and hire purchase agreements used today.
The Post War Boom
Following World War Two, as people strove to build a better world, there was a boom in the leasing of heavy equipment and plant. In 1954 a company called Leasing Corp was formed in the United States of America. It was the first modern equipment and plant leasing company and became the model for other plant hire companies.
Throughout the 1950s and 60s the number of plant hire companies in the western world rapidly increased, as construction companies realised it was much cheaper and more convenient to hire the equipment and machines they needed to complete a project, rather than owning and maintaining them during the downtime between jobs. The growth of the plant hire industry in the UK prompted the publication of the first edition of the National Plant Hire Guide in 1961. The guide has been published on a bi-annual basis every year since, and claims to provide a comprehensive guide to UK plant hire businesses.
The Modern Day Plant Hire Industry
Today there are hundreds of equipment leasing and plant hire companies across the UK. They now supply a range of different machines such as cranes, excavators, tractors, compactors and platforms. In recent years, plant hire companies have diversified to offer a range of other construction equipment, accessories which may be required on site, and other niche products, such as driver training and international capability.
The modern day plant hire industry now has an estimated value of £3.1 billion and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, not just within the plant hire sector but across the construction sector as a whole. After all, without the necessary plant and equipment, house builders and engineers could not complete their jobs.
Despite the recent economic turmoil and the prospect of Brexit looming on the horizon, the outlook for the plant hire industry is generally good, with growth rates of 9% predicted between 2017 and 2020.