The Good, The Bad, The Trending
Rental companies in Hawai‘i share what’s hot (or not) in 2024

Matt Elvin of Bacon Universal sees a future with telematics-enabled equipment bringing a range of efficiencies to the jobsite.     PHOTO COURTESY JLG INDUSTRIES

Trends can be fleeting and fickle. What’s hot in January may be forgotten by February, having gone the way of the dodo (along with the saimin burger, flash mobs and the latest TikTok challenge).

Shifting economic conditions and customer habits can bring about similar patterns in construction. So what trends are equipment rental companies seeing? What products have them excited and what do they think are the hottest picks for the year ahead?

David-Kupono Serai

Ryan Ouye

Matt Elvin


Though many industries have endured unprecedented hardships over the last several years, the general consensus seems to be that things are on an upswing once again. The same seems to be the case for construction trades, including equipment rentals.

According to David-Kupono Serai, regional rental manager for Papé Machinery, “Business over the past few years has been on an upward trajectory,” and he’s not alone in that assessment.

“Business has been steadily increasing in a positive direction over the last few years,” says Ryan Ouye, CEO and president at Service Rentals & Supplies. “Since coming out of COVID, we have seen a boost in the construction industry throughout Hawai‘i. We have been extremely busy since then trying to keep up with the current demand for equipment.”

“Equipment rentals have always been an important part of our business, and demand has remained strong throughout the last few years,” says Matt Elvin, CEO and president at Bacon Universal. “Like many of our industry peers, our equipment rental fleet was depleted as we navigated post-pandemic equipment shortages and prioritized new equipment to our sales customers.”


In this still-emerging, post-COVID world, we’re seeing new patterns and habits start to form and trends make themselves clearer. Consumers feeling a little more comfortable in their new normal may view the future with more optimism and open their wallets. That can present itself as new opportunities for businesses.

“Positive trends we are seeing are major long-term projects on all islands in Hawai‘i,” says Ouye. “We’re seeing an uptick in state and county projects, along with a handful of private jobs. The more long-term jobs that pop up, the busier our business will be in the future.”

“As far as trends go, I have been seeing an uptick in construction opportunities, which means companies need a lot more equipment on the jobsites than anticipated,” says Serai. “The years ahead look positive, so long as projects and construction remain steady with little to no disruption.”

The trends aren’t all positive, though. Inflation reportedly continues to slow, but its effects still linger, to the detriment of consumers and businesses alike.

“The cost of rental equipment and capital are both significantly higher, which inevitably drives up rental rates,” says Elvin. “Additionally, with the higher cost of capital, we may see rental companies extending their normal replacement cycle on some models.”

Adds Ouye, “Freight has been one of the biggest costs and challenges we have had to endure and regrettably, we don’t see this trend going away any time soon.”

Yet, if the aforementioned uptick in projects is any indication, these persistent high costs haven’t tempered the positive streaks, which seem to continue unabated.

Ryan Ouye at Service Rentals sees a growing demand for large, high-capacity generators, like the MQ Power WhisperWatt.     PHOTO COURTESY MQ POWER MULTIQUIP INC.


So what are customers renting nowadays? What hot products are they buzzing about and seeking?

“Right now we are seeing high demand for generators. Not your typical homeowner-sized units, but larger high-capacity units,” observes Ouye. “This drive is mostly spurred by the start of new jobs and it’s an area in the market that we have been happy to be suppliers of for a very long time.

“We are also seeing a new shift into battery-powered machinery,” he continues. “We’re seeing a lot of landscapers and hotels make the switch in consideration of their customers and trying to keep noise levels down. Battery lawnmowers and chainsaws are a couple of examples of new types that have become fairly popular recently.”

Elvin sees that “Track loaders and skid steers are in high demand right now.”

“This is, in part, due to the fact that these models are still experiencing some availability constraints, so there are less in the market and as such, they’ve become a hot commodity on the islands both for sales and rentals,” he says.

“Equipment-wise, the compact construction equipment or CCE, have been the biggest players lately on many jobsites throughout the state,” says Serai. “As you build, the jobsites get smaller, but the demand gets bigger, so what is the customer to do?

“That is where Papé comes in, we offer a complete line of compact construction equipment to make sure you get the job done right from start to finish. Land clearing has been a hot item as well to which Papé offers FAE forestry attachments and self-propelled tracked mulching units.”

The Genie GS-1932m scissor lift is a popular item on the continental U.S., and a new addition to the fleet at Service Rentals.     PHOTO COURTESY GENIE


Our sources also shared their thoughts on items that people may not yet know about but should, as well as product lines still managing to keep a low profile — but maybe not for long.

Ouye likes the Genie GS-1932m E-Drive slab scissor lifts, a new addition to Service Rentals’ fleet.

“These lifts have been extremely popular on the mainland due to their compact size,” he says. “These units are much shorter in length which gives them much better maneuverability for jobs in tight locations. The best part is that even though they are shorter in length, they still maintain the same amount of lifting capacity and height as a regular 1930 scissor lift. For anyone who needs to do work in an office building or an area with tight corridors, this is going to be the unit for you.”

“Equipment telematics is an important feature that I believe should be highlighted,” says Elvin. “At Bacon, our new rental equipment will be telematics-enabled where possible. The benefits of telematics are wide-ranging, but some of the key features for our rental customers include the ability to geo-fence equipment to provide immediate alerts in the case of the equipment being removed from the jobsite, service alerts and remote troubleshooting capabilities to minimize downtime, and more efficient locating of the equipment for onsite repairs and pick-ups.”

Says Serai, “John Deere’s precision technology has been flying under the radar. This technology reduces rework, increases jobsite efficiency, counteracts labor shortages and improves jobsite safety.” This line of products includes the 3D SmartGrade mentioned earlier. It enables operators of John Deere’s heavy equipment to utilize satellite positioning technology and 3D mapping to perform with a new level of precision when digging and grading.

Compact construction equipment, like this John Deere compact track loader, is a popular, in-demand item for Papé, according to David-Kupono Serai.     PHOTO COURTESY DEERE & COMPANY


While large, high-capacity generators are trending with customers, Ouye says it’s battery-powered generators, particularly the larger ones intended for use on the jobsite or for a job trailer, that have him personally excited.

“It’s a relatively new idea,” he says, “but the introduction of new product lines promises several benefits such as reduced fuel costs, reduced wet stacking and lower maintenance costs. As a rental company, you’re always on the lookout for new technology that can increase your ROI and reduce the amount of repairs on your machines.

“This benefits our customers as well because now they won’t have to worry about needing to make sure the unit is filled every week or every few days. These new types of generators anticipate being able to run at full capacity for more than 30 days without needing to be refilled.”

Serai is pumped for new products with high-tech solutions from an iconic brand.

“John Deere’s new grade management solutions like 3D SmartGrade helps the customer dig smarter to get their grade faster. The use of technology to help a jobsite move their timeline up is every contractor’s dream that John Deere can help turn into a reality.”

What has Elvin excited is less about new product lines and more about what his business is up to.

“I am particularly excited by the opportunities for our rental division,” says Elvin. “We have recently added dedicated rental sales teams in O‘ahu, Maui and Kaua‘i and have a lot of new equipment on order, to ensure we are delivering high-quality, low-hour equipment to our valued customers.”

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