How Do Fleets Dispose of ‘Yellow Metal’?

Fleets share best practices in disposing of off-road equipment — the backhoes, graders, rollers, etc., commonly known as “yellow metal.”

July 2010, Government Fleet - Feature

by Stephen Bennett

Since many pieces of off-road equipment are painted manufacturer Caterpillar's signature yellow hue, this class of equipment is sometimes called "yellow metal" or "yellow iron," irrespective of the manufacturer. There comes a time when it's reached the end of its useful life, and you want it off your hands. What are the best ways to dispose of this equipment?

Government fleet managers often choose to trade in older off-road equipment for new. Others have discovered they can move off-road equipment efficiently online and sometimes realize a meaningful return on it, too.

Turning to YouTube to ReSell Equipment

J.D. Schulte, fleet manager for the City of Moline, Ill., has jumped into the cyber world with both feet. He posts videos on YouTube to allow remote buyers to see and hear equipment in operation.

"It works well," Schulte said. He started posting the videos more than two years ago, he said, "because we were selling items on eBay, and we just thought if people were going to buy something like this, they would probably be a lot less apprehensive if they could hear the engine run and see all the attachments run. That's what led us to doing this."

The City fleet also sells and posts videos on the Web site and has worked with US Auctioneers.

When considering purchasing equipment, Schulte said, "I'm a lot more comfortable when I can see it and hear it and get to walk around it."

The videos serve that purpose for ­remote buyers, Schulte said, whether they are buying for themselves or are engaged in proxy bidding. "They'll be a little more comfortable bidding on some of our equipment if they're not going to be in town for the auction," he noted.

Schulte prefers the online venue compared to conventional auctions. In fact, he said, he no longer bothers with traditional auctions.

"We used to do a once-a-year live auction," he said. This approach had a number of disadvantages, including having to store vehicles and equipment until the time came for the auction.

"We'd have vehicles that sat sometimes eight, nine, 10 months," Schulte explained.

"Now as soon as we take something out of service, it's out of here," Schulte said. "And we don't have dead batteries, flat tires, all the other issues that come along with trying to store vehicles and get them ready for an auction."

Conventional auctions also tended to draw a smaller crowd compared to online sessions, "and when you limit yourself to such a small audience, you just don't get the most proceeds," Schulte said.

The first full year the City of Moline fleet engaged in online auctions, it saw a 63-percent jump in dollars generated, compared to sales figures by conventional auctions the previous year, Schulte said. Once he started augmenting the online effort with video, proceeds increased further, Schulte reported.

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