The survey polled crane rental and leasing companies, and received responses from almost 80 of them, half of which were outside the US. Participants were asked to report utilisation rates for their fleets. Just under half (48%) reported utilisation rates of more than 81%, with 34% of respondents reporting rates of more than 85%. This was a decline from last quarter’s survey (published in December 2007), which saw 62% of respondents reporting utilisation rates over 81%. Around a third of respondents (34%) reported utilisation rates of 70%–80%, up from 22% who reported this rate last quarter, and 18% reported utilisation rates below 70%.

The fleet owners were also asked to compare utilisation rates in the first quarter of 2008 to rates in the first quarter of 2007. Only 23% said utilisation rates had decreased year-on-year, but this figure was almost twice as high as last quarter, when 12% said utilisation rates had dropped year-on-year. Following a similar trend, while 54% of respondents to December’s survey said they had seen utilisation rising year-on-year, only 36% saw rates rising this quarter. The percentage who said rates were unchanged was more stable, at 41% compared to 34% last quarter.

The respondents answers on rental rates were also less positive than in the last quarter: 48% of those polled said rates had increased year-on-year this quarter, while 63% said rates had improved year-on-year in December’s survey. The survey also asked whether fleet owners had become more or less confident about the business environment in the last six months. This was split into three almost equal sets of responses: 31% were more positive, 31% said their view was unchanged, and 38% were less positive.

Despite the growth in negative feedback over the last three months, the survey found that fleet owners were still largely looking to expand. When asked about their plans for their fleets in 2008, 55% said they planned to expand, 42% said they would maintain their fleet at current levels, and only 3% planned to make cuts. This marked a slight drop in expansion plans from December’s survey, when 60% said they planned to expand their fleet.