For Paul Phelon, president, Timp Rental Center, Orem and American Fork, Utah, sustainability for his family’s rental operation is a long-term strategy. It is defined by his family legacy and environmental considerations balanced with economic viability and safety.
As far as his family’s legacy, Phelon, who served as the American Rental Association (ARA) president from 2014-2015, thinks a lot about whether there will be opportunities for his and his brothers’ children to take the helm of the family’s 41-year-old business.
“My family’s rental operation started in 1979 as a Taylor Rental franchise. In 1982, we went independent as Timp Rental. My brothers and I are the second-generation and we are continuing to look at the ability of the next generation to take over. We’ll see what happens over the next 10 to 15 years. The rental industry has changed and is continuing to change with mergers, people buying a machine or two, getting on the internet and renting those pieces of equipment out of their houses and such. There are a lot of different challenges. We have a good economy out here, so we continue to move forward and grow our business to meet the needs of those in the area,” he says.
Part of that longevity rests on being an environmentally friendly and safe operation.
One way his company achieves that is by using Clean Burn® waste oil burners. “We collect oil year-round. In the wintertime, our first source of heat is from these oil heaters. We also take in some from other people in the area who want to get rid of their oil. We have been running these since 1997. That is an opportunity to get rid of the used oil. They call them clean burn because they burn efficiently,” Phelon says.
He also has updated the lighting in his building and uses LED lighting in his outside signage.
The biggest step in this area — and the one with the largest investment — is the commitment to having new equipment. “We are always updating our equipment to the newer models, so we always have the newest engines that aren’t polluters,” Phelon says.
That means investing in more pieces of equipment that are battery-powered, from electric boom lifts to battery-operated lawn and garden tools.
When it comes to engines, Phelon admits that regulations are a strong driver. “The engine companies are now going to Tier 5 in 2022. They are having to struggle to find ways to meet those emissions issues. One of the issues for us is the cost. These machines are very clean regarding emissions, but on the other hand they become very costly because there are a lot of expenses we incur due to these new types of engines,” he says.
Even with these challenges, Phelon understands the importance of the regulations because the new equipment reduces emissions and offers enhanced safety features — another critical component to the care of his employees and customers as well as his operation’s overall viability and longevity in the market.
“Safety is a top priority and a sustainability issue for us as well. That is another reason why we invest in new fleet. It is something we market to our customers too,” he says. “As an independent, we have to keep up with a newer fleet to compete with all the national companies. It’s like when you rent a car, you don’t want to rent a wreck. You want a new car, and you want new equipment. First impressions are huge. It’s an aspect of our marketability. With new fleet, we have the newest safety and emission features. As long as we are in a position to buy new, we can be sustainable for the environment in that way,” he says.
Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, he, like other rental operators, has experienced supply chain issues, which have created unanticipated sustainability challenges.
“Being able to get what we need when we need it is a problem. It could be a month, three months or six months before we can get some equipment and parts. One of our concerns was regarding tracks and tires. If we run short, we might have a machine, but we can’t rent it out because we don’t have the tracks and tires since the manufacturer is in short supply. The supply chain has been impacted due to the pandemic. We have had to plan ahead now — sustainability-wise — to make sure we have stock of certain parts that are highly utilized. That has put more cash flow out of our pockets than what we have had to do in the past. Before, we could call up and have these items here in a short period of time. We didn’t have to stock them. Now,
we are in the mode that we had better stock them. It is like toilet paper. You can run out and can’t get it. It’s plain and simple: Our equipment can’t go out without tires on it,” Phelon says.
So, for Phelon, sustainability “is all about looking at the long-range forecast. We have to look at all areas of our business as well as the economy,” he says. “Rental is not always a gravy train. It’s about looking at every aspect of the business, having the equipment our customers want and need, communicating with employees, making sure safety is at the forefront of everything we do, being efficient, taking care of our customers and preparing for possible rainy days also. It’s all about the long term.”