Fleets of side-by-side vehicles are proving popular in a number of farming and industrial industries, as farmers look to manage capital expenditure while maintaining appropriate levels of equipment for peak periods.
Owner of Australia's largest fleet of side-by-side utility vehicle rentals,1800Buggies, Pip Jewson, said he was seeing significant market growth from almond and cherry farmers looking to increase their fleet temporarily over harvest.
"A large almond company near Balranald NSW owns 12 Kubota RTV 900s, but they are taking eight more from us for the two month picking season," he said.
Mr Jewson said with COVID-19 restricting some of his markets such as festivals and large events over recent months, a greater percentage of his business came from alternative markets, furthering an on-going trend.
"Over time we have moved more into long-term hire in agriculture and construction," he said.
"We have Kubota's RTV1140s working in the Sydney metro tunnel underground for six months while the tunnel is built.
"Solar farms have also been a big transition for us."
Mr Jewson said the lease business spun out of his families Kubota dealership 20 years ago.
"The marketplace has changed over that time, we are seeing more of a shift to long-term hire over purchase," he said.
"Companies are increasingly taking a 12 month hire opposed to a capital purchase, particularly on big projects where they need 15 or 30 of them."
Mr Jewson said while he had a number of models in his fleet, the Kubotas were still a favourite.
"We have a number of Kubota's in our rental fleet, along with Kawasaki and Polaris models," he said.
"Our clients are really diverse, from festivals and the Grand Prix though to mining, construction, agriculture and solar farms.
"The Kubota models are our preference for long-term hire, we can send a fleet of a dozen out to a jobsite for 12 to 18 months.
"We like Kubota because they are reliable and have hydro-static transmission."
Mr Jewson said reliability and safety were important for the long-term hires, which were often on busy sites or isolated locations.
"Kubota is the only utility vehicle in the market with a hydro-static transmission, which from a safety perspective is important, if you take your foot off the accelerator it is going to stop," he said.
"The way air-cleaners are designed in new models is important, we will send them out to solar farms for six months over summer and it is a really dusty environment, so knowing they will reliably work over this period is important."
Mr Jewson said another shift was the trend towards the 'people mover'.
"Four and six seater utility vehicles are popular, people are using them over a dual cab ute."