What is the difference between wet hire and dry hire?
Wet hire includes machinery and an operator, whilst Dry hire provides the machinery only. If you hire a machine on dry hire, you will need to operate the machine yourself.
What is wet hire?
When hiring a machine on wet hire it will include an operator to operate the machine. Obviously, this will greatly increase the hire cost as you will be paying for the operators labour as well as the machine hire and fuel costs.
What is dry hire?
When hiring a machine on dry hire it will not include an operator to operate the machine. This rental option is significantly cheaper than wet hire as you don't need to pay for the operators labour. Many machines are very technical and challenging to operate, so this form of hire isn't appropriate for every hire scenario.
How to decide between wet and dry hire?
A good analogy is hire-cars as opposed to Uber. If you arrive at the airport and rent a car you will pay for the car and fuel, but you will drive it yourself. That’s a Dry operation. When you call Uber they provide the car, the service, the driver and pay for the fuel. That’s a Wet operation. This choice is available in all kinds of businesses where you require both the equipment and an operator, whether that person is you or someone who specialises in the role.
There are times when both are viable options and others when one makes more sense both in economic and financial terms. Let me explain.
With “Wet” hire you’re paying for a service PLUS the skill of the operator. Anyone can drive a car, for instance, but there are different levels of competence. That’s also true with machinery where the skill of the operator is key to the success of the project. With domestic operators we often have people who need to use an excavator or a bobcat and they Dry hire trying to save money, so they rent the machine and do it themselves. Now, that’s OK if you really know what you’re doing - but many don’t. For example, a Wet hire operator might take 4 hours to do a job that could take an unskilled operator two days. The job will also be done better and more safely with a decreased risk of accident or environmental damage. So the aim of saving money actually becomes a false economy.
What I liked about Wet hiring when I worked as an engineer was that the operators were generally smaller companies who lived and died by the quality of their work and price-competitiveness. There are times when Dry hire is a better choice but, when it comes to the quality of a job, it’s usually best to have a jockey on the equipment whose living depends on it being
done in a highly professional manner.
Competence is a priority in all of this. To be compliant, all wet operators must be ticketed and competent, but in many ways being competent is more important than being licensed. With Dry hire, there’s the risk that you don’t have the experience or the expertise with the machine. That increases the chances of breaking something on the machine or using it incorrectly which
then heightens the risk of physical injury or damage to the project. I used to spend a lot of time on bobcats and was extremely proficient, but I only operated one kind of machine. Other models had different operating configurations with leavers in different positions and I became a hazard to myself and others. It’s equally true that pilots aren’t capable of safely flying all planes.
You can lose a lot of efficiencies adapting to new machinery and increase the potential risks. Dirty Harry was right: You’ve got to know your limitations.
At the moment in Australia, there are more Wet operations than Dry, particularly on the east coast. That’s a reversal of the trend when we launched in 2012 and there are obvious reasons for the change. At that time (and it’s still the case in W.A) there were plenty of mining operations on the go and the operators hired the equipment but, because of the long-term
nature of the projects, it was cheaper and more convenient to use their own specialist operators.
So Dry operations are best suited for those with proven skill and experience with particular machines and jobs, whilst Wet hire is best for those who are inexperienced with the machinery or want total security in the knowledge that the job will be done well, on time and with optimal safety.