Volume 1, Issue #01
Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter
First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for subscribing to my newsletter. I figure we could all learn a lot from each other. We all have questions and answers for each other. The best part is that we aren't in direct competition with each other. There's no reason to feel threatened, so sharing info I hope will be easier. There are so many topics, so finding a starting point won't be easy. I may jump around a bit, but hopefully I'll be on track soon.
What I plan on putting in each issue of Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter, is the kind of information you NEED. There is much happening in the Snow and Ice Removal Industry. New products are coming out every day that can make our jobs easier. In each issue I'd like to have a New Products Section. Also a Reminder Section, to help us all remember to do things on time, especially servicing equipment regularly. It seems many of us overlook service, until a break down occurs. This is always more costly, and even more costly due to downtime. We all have had it happen, so don't say "not me". ;>)
At different times of the year, there are certain things we as Snow and Ice Removal Contractors should be doing. I'd like to discuss the various items, when the time arises that they should be done. There will be a "This Month" Section. There will be a This Months Links Section at the end of each Snowplowing Newsletter. It is important that you read the info at the site I'll be linking to. Most are government and private sites. The info was very hard for me to find, so use it to your advantage. Don't follow the links and "just look at the pictures." Read carefully, even if you just go and bookmark the pages for later reading (which I strongly suggest you do anyway). Be very diligent in your search for info. You subscribed to this newsletter, so we know you want to learn! This month, October, is especially important. Before you know it the cold will be here. The kind of cold you don't want to hold metal tools in. Nothing like trying to pick up a tiny screw you dropped in the snow, in 20 degree weather, with numb fingers! Not fun. Some maintenance items can be done when it's a little colder out, but painting outdoors is one where you want favorable temperatures. This is your last chance to paint your plow before the colder weather comes. Depending on where you live, it may be too late already.
It's time to get your plow ready. Time to paint it up, so the face of the moldboard is nice and smooth. A rough plow doesn't do as good of a job, and actually makes plowing harder on your truck by creating more resistance. You want the snow to "roll off" the blade. This will get the snow farther back from curbs when you are pushing parallel to them. you can always "buck" the mounds back over the curbs later. Getting as much of it as you can, far, far back from the curb the first time is important no matter how much snow falls. Leaving it near the curb can make future snowfalls a nightmare.
If your plow doesn't need to be painted, then give the face of the moldboard at least two coats of wax. If you paint your plow, wait at least 30 days before waxing. It will take at least that long for the paint to fully cure. Next we move on to the plows hydraulic system and electrical system. Change the hydraulic fluid, and clean all strainers / and or filters. You can flush you angle cylinders and the fluid reservoir with Kerosene if you want. it's safe to use, as it won't harm the seals of the hydraulic system. Be careful as it is extremely flammable! Try to get out as much as you can, any residue will readily mix with the hydraulic fluid, and not cause any damage. Better a little Kerosene residue, than black gook. For a more detailed description of how to change your hydraulic fluid, and prepping it for the season check out my Snowplow Maintenance page.
You can also post questions, and read other "message threads" at my Snowplowing Discussion Forum on the web, (http://www.plowsite.com) just copy and paste the address into your browser.
This is also the time to do any major or minor repairs on you plow truck(s) as well. An oil change, and tune up if it will be due for one during the plowing season. You don't want to be on the last 500 miles before a scheduled tune up, out plowing a 20" snowfall.
Better to change parts early, than to chance a break down. We all know the harsh conditions we run our vehicles in when plowing. Extreme wind, extreme temperatures, wind driven rain, icing and melting, etc. A worn out distributor cap will give you trouble out plowing, even though it was fine "up until the storm." Change it first, and the rotor and spark plugs as well. Check your antifreeze, if it's rusty looking, change it, and flush the cooling system too. Better now than when it's 20 below out. The transmission should be serviced now, before the plowing season begins. Manual transmissions are different. They generally can go the recommended miles before servicing. It should be serviced mid season, if there are many snowfalls. Just because the owners manual says to change it after every 20,000+ miles under "normal use," doesn't mean it will apply to you. Usually they list "Heavy Duty Service," or "severe Conditions," in which case follow them. Many of today's trucks aren't the same "kind" of trucks made 20 years ago. Service the trans before it gets cooked. I cooked one in 7,000 miles, so believe me, I know. I admit it, I was ignorant, but know better now. That was a $1000 mistake. If I had serviced it in March, when plowing subsided, I'd have been fine. Instead, I hitched up my 6.5' x 12' loaded landscape trailer and began Spring clean ups. Filling the back of my truck with more and more debris along the way. After a month or so, I had to shift into 4wd hi, just to back up my driveway. It's not that steep of a hill, but I actually needed the lower gearing to get up! The trans fluid at that point was brownish and VERY burnt smelling.
On the subject of fluids, now is also the time to fix those "leaky valve covers," and find "that darn drip!" from your engine too. These can escalate into bigger problems mid-storm and wreak havoc!
All your contracts and proposals should be sent out by the end of this month or sooner. September is a big month for mailing out proposals and contracts. You should start scheduling and laying out your route, according to your obligations. Do a dry run or two, to see if your plan is best. If not, reroute, and see if you can make the route more efficient. We all know time is money, money is time in this business. I get an idea that a general price nationwide, on average, is about say $60 an hour (I said average! don't shoot me!) for truck with a 7.5' plow and driver. Well folks, that breaks down to a dollar for a minute of your time. See what I mean? Minutes add up quick, don't they? That's just plowing at an hourly rate. I plow on a per storm basis. I realized from day one, that more money can be made this way. Hourly is good for extra income, but per storm is the way to go for good money when you work. Charging by the season, whether it snows or not is nice too, but there is a chance you can lose. It's a gamble, but if you bid it right, you can make good money. It evens out over a 5 year span usually. If you aren't sure if you'll be plowing in five years, than stick to the per storm. I'm not saying to pass up all jobs that pay seasonal, but examine the specifications very carefully. I can generally make as much as $200 an hour, regardless of how much snow falls. Doing residential, or commercial. The drawback is I only make money when it snows, and I plow. Seasonal, you get paid in installments. Typically 2 or 3, one at the beginning of the contract, and one at the end. If it's a 3 payment plan, you get a check midseason. School systems are one example of a typical seasonal paying contract. They also require that the contractor have a loader on the premises for stacking and moving snow during storms, and that the contractor have a 1 million dollar bond, to cover the bid. In the event that you fail to live up to your end of the contract, they put a lien on your bond, to pay another contractor to finish your obligations. If you're smart, you'll have a sub contractor to cover your butt if these are the kinds of contracts you want to plow. That way, you still can make some money yourself, and keep the contract.
Here's this month's links. Bookmark them and read carefully! Enjoy!!!
Chuck's Snowplowing Discussion Forum
This one is a MUST READ. It's a Federal report. Excellent info.
This is from Minnesota.
Snow and Ice Control
Snow Plow Operators Click Here
Techniques used in Asia and Europe, some of these are cool!! A MUST READ.
Winter Maintenance Technology and Practices--Learning from Abroad
I have more links for the next issue. Feel free to write with questions, or asking to discuss what ever topics YOU want to hear about. I'll try to answer as many of your questions as I can in each Issue.
It's supposed to snow, what should I be doing?
What to carry in you truck when out plowing
Snow Management Society or something like that?
©1999 Charles D. Smith
All Rights Reserved
May not be reproduced in whole or in part in any format,
without the author's express written permission to do so.
Well, that's it. What do you guys want to talk about or see in the next issue? Your input is really needed guys! Reply to this with your comments. Again, thanks for being one of my first subscribers. Hopefully, Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter will be around a long time!
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