Construction equipment auctioneer Ritchie Bros. says it is seeing record numbers of bids for construction equipment in the past week during auctions held in the U.S. and France on March 17-18. This huge volume of heavy iron is moving despite the disruptions and slowdowns in construction due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The company reported 5,800 bidders at an online-only auction in Columbus, Ohio, and 6,400 bidders at an auction in Sacramento, Calif., while a timed auction in St. Aubin sur Gaillon, France drew 1,900 registered bidders. Ritchie Bros. has logged increased online traffic to its auctions year-over-year, and expects the share of web-based bidding to only increase as the COVID-19 pandemic slows business travel and gatherings. 

The company announced March 16 that it is making several key changes to shift to more online-only auctions, but says it will still use real auctioneers on-site. In a press statement, Ann Fandozzi, CEO of Ritchie Bros., said the safety of their employees and customers is their top priority. "Right now, we are limiting or eliminating onsite attendance in accordance with local restrictions and promoting online participation," she said. 

The steady demand for heavy iron tracks other trends seen in the global equipment market, and Fandozzi saw little drop off in pricing or volume due to the pandemic. "The demand for equipment right now is high—as witnessed by the strong pricing we've seen in all our recent events. With our online bidding technology, we can keep the market moving while simultaneously keeping people safe," she said.

Adjustments to work practices due to the pandemic may only accelerate a shift to online bidding for heavy equipment that was already underway. According to Ritchie Bros., 78% of winning bids on its recent auctions have been made online, and the company continues to expand it's online-only auction subsidiary IronPlanet. 

Even through the CONEXPO-CON/AGG equipment trade show in Las Vegas was cut short last week, Ritchie Bros. still managed to auction off 2,750 pieces of equipment for a total value of over $44 million. The auction saw more than 6,800 bidders from 55 countries, including 5,800 online bidders. CONEXPO attendees were also able to bid online during the show using the Ritchie Bros. app.