The annual parade of heavy iron past the viewing stands at the Ritchie Bros. auction in Orlando, Fla., is often taken as a bellwether for the health of the equipment industry. The signs this year are encouraging. A new record for the Vancouver, B.C.-based auction house, more than $188 million worth of heavy equipment, compact equipment and trucks were sold at the Feb. 20-24 event.
“It was quite a bit larger than last year. The mood is quite good right now,” says Jake Lawson, senior vice president with Ritchie Bros. “There’s anticipation that the new [U.S.] president will spend big on infrastructure, and a few customers are betting big on that, filling out their fleets.”
According to Ritchie Bros., the auction saw more than 10,000 pieces of equipment sold. Construction equipment on the block included more than 600 excavators, 300 loaders, 425 compactors and 110 cranes.
Hundreds of over-the-road trucks and vocational trucks also changed hands, with surprising demand for transportation equipment, such as heavy-duty trailers. “There has been a flood of [transportation equipment] on the market since 2014,” says Lawson. “But we saw strong prices on it this year. I think [bidders] feel there’s going to be a lot of work adjacent to the construction sector, like hauling steel or other materials for road and bridge work.”
As in recent years, bids were split evenly between in-person and online bidders. Roughly 10,400 bidders registered, hailing from 88 countries. About 29% of sales were made to international bidders. But the overall uptick in sales was driven by hungry U.S. bidders, says Lawson. “A lot of people had chosen not to refresh their fleets, relying on renting,” he says. “But among our customers, there is a feeling that there will be a more consistent flow of infrastructure money in the future.”