Greenwich, CT -
Even before hurricane season began, United Rentals had been working to prepare for this year's storms. What they didn't anticipate, however, was the rapid succession of weather disasters that struck the Sunshine State.
On August 10, as Hurricane Charley picked up speed and approached Florida's west coast, around-the-clock preparations began. Nine weeks and three more hurricanes later, efforts are only now coming to an end.
Dave Murphy, United Rentals national accounts manager in Brandon, Florida, worked non-stop to make sure that Florida Power & Light (FPL) had the right equipment when needed to restore power to millions of Florida residents. "We supplied FPL with anything they wanted, which became more challenging once the second hurricane, Frances, hit. Our equipment went from staging area to staging area, one storm after the other."
A staging area, explained Murphy, is land set aside to provide fuel, meals, materials, equipment and daily work dispatch capabilities for field crews. United Rentals personnel played a key role in setting these areas up, including coordinating with Signature Special Events to bring in tents, and providing the United Rentals forklifts, palette jacks, light towers and other equipment necessary to get the staging areas up and running.
Four staging areas had been planned in advance in Florida to centralize mobilization efforts after Hurricane Charley. The devastating series of storms that followed required a total of 16 staging areas, however, of which half were completely set up in one day. Keith White, logistics manager, integrated supply chain for FPL, described this as a remarkable feat and an important one. "It's more than just setting up a staging site," he said. "It's giving our crews the best conditions to work under. We're all working to get the crews as productive as possible, as quickly as possible, to restore power to our customers."
Each of this year's four hurricanes taught Murphy and the team something new, as they had to adapt quickly to constantly shifting circumstances and logistics. Murphy is quick to give credit to Jacksonville-based Innovative Transportation Solutions (ITS) for their help in transporting approximately 750 pieces of equipment in fewer than eight weeks.
Of particular assistance was owner Mike Pritchard, who developed a computer program to track more than 300 individual United Rentals equipment deliveries to FPL sites.
In addition, United Rentals employees from across Florida and beyond stepped up to meet the demand for equipment as quickly and efficiently as possible. National Accounts coordinators Justin Greear from Atlanta and Rhys Butler from Tampa volunteered to help out and they worked to facilitate customer orders. "We wanted to help give these guys who have been working really long days a break."
On Florida's west coast, United Rentals' Fort Myers branch experienced its busiest month ever after Charley made landfall to the north in Punta Gorda. Branch manager Phil Johnson said the level of business was unbelievable and it was a major undertaking for his staff. "We experienced an extremely high volume of calls and four times the normal volume of customers came into the store." Customer service remained a priority, even though the branch ran on generators for several days, and operated without its computer system. "We were writing paper contracts by hand," said Johnson. "That was a challenge."
All 25 employees at the Fort Myers location worked nearly around the clock to meet customer demands. Even Robbi Igo, a United Rentals employee from South Carolina who came down to help out, worked until 4:00 in the morning to set up for the next day's start at 7:00 am.
The demand for rental equipment justified buying ten new boom lifts and new skid steer loaders, said Johnson, as well as countless generators. "When the equipment came back from rent, someone was always there to receive it no matter what time of day. Everyone pitched in and worked really hard. The average work day was 12 hours, with some guys putting in 18 to 19 hours a day."
In all, 75 United Rentals branches in 11 states supplied equipment used in the recovery efforts. Eighty percent of the equipment came from the company's Florida branches, while the balance was brought in from United Rentals branches in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
About United Rentals
United Rentals, Inc. is the largest equipment rental company in North America, with an integrated network of more than 730 rental locations in 47 states, ten Canadian provinces and Mexico. The company's 13,200 employees serve construction and industrial customers, utilities, municipalities, homeowners and others. The company offers for rent over 600 different types of equipment with a total original cost of $3.7 billion. United Rentals is a member of the Standard & Poor's MidCap 400 Index and the Russell 2000 Index® and is headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut. Additional information about United Rentals is available at www.unitedrentals.com.
VP, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications
United Rentals, Inc.
Director of Marketing
United Rentals, Inc.