Mike Anderson's American Iron

Better Roads Staff | September 1, 2010

Used gear on the (global) move

By Mike Anderson

My Thursdays have gotten a little longer . . . and that’s a great thing!

Being IronPlanet’s regular auction day for primarily U.S.-sourced used construction equipment, Thursday had already evolved into a close-the-door, eat-a-sandwich-at-the-desk kind of day. Watching as bid upon bid – 84 in total – collectively drove the selling price of a shear-equipped 2008 Caterpillar 345D L crawler excavator from $198,000 to $382,000 over 23 captivating minutes is the type of scene that will never grow old. This is both high drama and pretty darned fun. The very same day, July 22, a 2005 Caterpillar 735 articulated dump truck remained on the IronPlanet clock for 36 minutes – exactly six times the minimum amount of time every piece of heavy equipment receives and more than twice as much as the overwhelming majority stay alive. Finally, off it went for $161,000. A twin piece, likewise starting at $99,000, ended up selling for even more – $165,000. They were just two of nine six-digit earners among the heavy equipment that day.

In person or online, an equipment auction has always represented time well spent, at least in my little world. But, of late, what’s become equally as interesting is time spent immediately after the Thursday auctions. When the final item closes, up pops the full sale results, not only confirming or correcting my bid price and bidder total scribbles from the previous six or seven hours, but most significantly where the successful bidder is located.

Remember, the overwhelming majority of equipment up for bids in an IronPlanet auction on a Thursday is sourced from the United States; the very rare piece comes out of Canada and Mexico. But where it all goes – at least in theory conceding that the homeland of the buyer and the equipment’s destination may not necessarily be the same – is just about anywhere from Australia to Saudi Arabia, from Taiwan to Colombia.

In that July 22 sale, I followed 92 key pieces of quality construction equipment, specifically compactors, crawler excavators, motor graders, crawler dozers, wheel loaders and backhoe loaders. Of those, 51 were bought by U.S.-based customers, meaning 44.5 percent went outside the country. Of the 41 outgoing, neighboring Mexico and Canada drew totals of 17 and five respectively, but 12 other countries also had at least one each, led by Colombia with four, Saudi Arabia with three, and New Zealand and Peru with two each. The others were Australia, Bolivia, Hong Kong, Jordan, Pakistan, Paraguay, Taiwan and Thailand.

And that wasn’t a fluke. The very next Thursday, 80 products in those same equipment groups were targeted and tracked, of which 43 were ultimately acquired by U.S.-based customers, meaning 46.25 percent went to bids from outside the country. At 12 and five respectively, Mexico and Canada again were at the top of the July 29 buyer’s location list, but Saudi Arabia also drew five, followed by Colombia at four, Australia at two, and Bolivia, Ecuador, Egypt, Jordan, Panama, Peru, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Venezuela at one each.

The good news: There’s use for good equipment – used or new – somewhere right this moment.

And that 2008 Cat 345D L back on July 22? From a seller in Florida, it went to a buyer in Massachusetts. And that made this particular Thursday even all the greater.v

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