Sobratema draws map of equipment fleet in activity

Unprecedented survey conducted by the association presents a profile of the equipment in use at Brazil’s construction work sites, including their average age and where they are at work.

Considered today’s “best place to be" in the international market for construction equipment for staying clear of the trend we see in industrialized countries that are  struggling to recover their sales volumes after the world economic crisis, Brazil surely deserved to have a study on the profile of equipment that has been deployed at the country’s construction sites. To meet this need, the Sobratema has just completed a survey of the fleet of construction equipment in activity in Brazil, identifying characteristics such as service life, where equipment is at work, and providing other related information.

The objective of this survey is to provide information to equip and assist companies, such as manufacturers of parts and components, distributors, repair shops, grinding/overhaul services and others, that are responsible for providing these fleets with maintenance services and supplies. "This is an unprecedented initiative in Brazil which seeks to understand the profile of the country’s equipment fleet so that companies can better plan ahead," said Brian Nicholson, consultant to Sobratema and a member of the team responsible for the survey. He admits that large companies are able to gather such information by other means, but points out that this survey is especially important to smaller companies that do not have access to this data and need to program their offering of services to their customers.

According to Nicholson, the survey encompassed a population of 42,568 items of equipment which belong to the 185 largest fleet operators in the country, including construction companies, rental companies and equipment dealers operating in the rental business. "This sample corresponds to almost 10% of the entire Brazilian fleet with up to 10 years of use - a fleet that we estimate to have around 500 thousand units". The universe examined by the survey of equipment includes 71 equipment families, including earthmoving machines, lifters and elevators of cargo and people, concreting equipment, paving and support services, among others.

Thus, besides including the equipment most commonly used in large projects, such as hydraulic excavators, bucket loaders, crawler tractors/bulldozers, backhoes, cranes and trucks, the survey also covers aerial work platforms, telescopic handlers, generators, air compressors, drilling trucks, concrete pumps and even fixed installations such as asphalt and concrete plants, etc.. Nicholson estimates that of the fleet operating in the country, just over 282,000 machines have up to 5 years of use.

Old machines
Nicholson’s projection is based on a study of the Brazilian Market for Construction Equipment conducted annually by Sobratema, which reports this volume sold in Brazil since 2007. "Even so, the survey of the fleet in activity has found that we have underestimated the longevity of these machines."  He explains that just over half of the sample studied consists of equipment with up to five years of use, but older models also have a relevant participation in this fleet. In the ‘yellow’ heavy construction equipment line, for example, consisting of earth-moving and grading equipment, it was found that 14% of the units had over 10 years of use.

"This finding is surprising since the survey is based on a sampling consisting only of the larger companies in the market which, of course, operate fleets that are newer and more up to date."  If the population of machines that belong to large construction and rental companies reveals higher than expected longevity of machines, Nicholson assumes that the average age of equipment may be even higher when we look at smaller companies. "After all, what we most commonly find are machines that have had their ‘first lives’ in the fleets of large companies, which then sell those machines to smaller organizations, and wind up having a third or fourth owner, ending their lives in the service of the city hall of a small city or on a rural property", Nicholson ponders.

The observations made by the consultant and specialist in the market refer primarily to the ‘yellow’ heavy construction machine line, since in other segments it is usual for equipment to have a longer service life. In the case of permanent, fixed installations, such as asphalt and concrete plants, 45% of equipment examined has been in use for over 10 years.

Location of the fleet
Although the survey’s findings regarding the average age of the fleet proved to be a surprise, the same is not true of where that equipment is located. According to the Sobratema survey, the state with the highest concentration of equipment is Rio de Janeiro with a total 25.6% of the population examined in the survey. Next come the states of São Paulo (18.2%), Espírito Santo (8.2%), Ceará (6.5%) and Bahia (5.1%). "Obviously Rio de Janeiro is one of the Brazilian states with the largest volume of investments in infrastructure, but there is a certain bias in this assessment on account of the investments in ‘pre-salt layer’ exploration,"  Nicholson considers.

He explains that, although the projects in the area of petroleum consume construction equipment, such as cranes and the like, this equipment is not necessarily applied in civil works, but rather in the assembly of offshore platforms. "What has impacted the distribution of the fleet are large works that require major earthmoving operations such as the construction of dams, hydroelectric plants, etc.." In that regard, the Amazon region would present an interesting concentration of machines due to the construction of the Santo Antônio, Jirau and Belo Monte hydroelectric power plants. The states of Ceará and Bahia, in turn, stand out for works in seaports and the establishment of wind farms for wind power generation.

To Brian Nicholson, the most important thing about this survey is that, with this initiative, Sobratema has begun to create mechanisms to better understand the Brazilian market for construction equipment. "When we started the study on the market for construction equipment back in 2007 monitoring sales in the domestic market, we also brought new data to the sector and today this information is anxiously awaited by professionals every year."