February 16, 2001
Volume 3, Issue #02
Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter
Making Your Job Easier
About 3 weeks ago, we had a snow event that left us with 17" of snow. For 2 weeks after, temperatures stayed below freezing. A week after the 17" we had a small 2" snowfall. In the days following the 17" event, we stacked snow with a loader at some of our sites. We did this out of necessity, since we knew that for at least a week following the 17" temps would stay below freezing. That meant any additional snow events we got would infringe on parking areas even more. During the 17" event, we pushed piles well over curbs onto grass areas where possible, but we still "lost space" at most properties, and stacking solved that problem. The 2" event we got after the 17", we were able to push off the lots at the sites we stacked at. Other sites lost even more precious parking space.
About a week ago, temperatures came up above freezing for a few days. It also rained for 2 days, melting much of the snow. This presented a good opportunity for us at sites we didn't stack at. Since temperatures were up, and it rained, many of the piles were soft. We talked to several of our sites and explained the timing and conditions were perfect to push back the piles and rows along the edges of the parking lots. We explained we would move what we could (i.e., can't move frozen piles and ice in some places). This would benefit them "twofold". First, they would regain parking immediately, and second, if it was to snow again, and temps were to drop below freezing (obviously they do when it snows!) we can plow their lots full width. If it were to snow again, these piles and rows would be frozen, and they would lose even more parking.
Pushing the piles and rows back also benefits us twofold. First, we can charge for this work. Second, it makes our job easier, if the piles don't melt completely before it snows again. Now we will be able to push snow up onto the grass areas easily, without constantly tripping our blades two feet in front of the curbs on frozen piles and rows in the process. When we pushed the softened piles and rows back at these properties, there was a small snow event forecasted for the end of the week. We seized the opportunity to make our job easier, and to make a profit. We also saved our properties money, because the bill for us to push back the piles was much less than what it would have cost them for a loader to stack snow. If we had asked or recommended stacking at these sites at this time, they all would have declined. We know this, because first of all, we have serviced these properties for years (and know who is cheap) and secondly, the other sites declined our offer to stack after the 17". They didn't mind losing parking, even though many of the sites have limited parking as it is.
Now the "small" snow event that was forecasted at the beginning of the week has turned into a 4" - 12" forecast in our market. If we do get 4", our job will be easier, and if we get 12" our job will be easier. Either way, we are glad that we made our job easier. Some sites declined us pushing back piles and rows, and that choice is theirs to make. I also might add, that at some of our smaller properties, we pushed back piles and rows at no charge. This is a "little thing" we can occasionally do, to let the customers know that we care, and to let them know we keep up on the properties we service even when it isn't snowing. It also shows them that sometimes we "give back" to them, for the profit servicing them provides us.
Giving back is another subject, but on that note, we give back at other sites, in other ways as well. For instance, some of our sites require attention at all times. We go through the lots during snowfalls, and keep a lane clear, and certain walks clear. We do not bill for this, though we can, as per the job specifications. When you look at the "big picture" giving back here and there isn't so bad. You might think, "well it cuts into my profit", but remember, your accounts are the reason you make a profit, and a little give back here and there can help you keep those accounts.
I live in a condominium complex. I don't plan to live here long, but for now I have no choice. They have had the same contractor plow this lot for at least the past 5 years. He doesn't do the best job, but he does a reasonably good job. He returns the day after a snow event, to plow where cars were parked, push back piles, etc.
This year, he was replaced. Judging from a few factors, I can surmise he was replaced based on price alone. We had only a few small events this winter. They were all handled with salt, which the "old" contractor never provided (I'm sure this place wouldn't pay for salting). The walkways are salted by the superintendent here, but the lot was never salted until this year. So we rang in the New Year here with 17" of snow. It was clear this new contractor wasn't very good at what he does. I saw him plowing first hand, and it was scary! I also saw the "aftermath" of his snow removal here. Not a pretty site. When he plowed here, he was speeding recklessly the entire time (made my brother look like a little old lady!) and it was clear he was trying to get done as fast as he could, regardless of safety, or damage to shrubbery and lawn areas. I personally watched him speed in reverse, into a blind intersection each time he backed up. He went down the lanes doing at least 35 MPH, with the plow angled straight. He proceeded to push as much snow as he could, out and across the street, which is a County road. This left such a large pile on the roadway, that the road plows didn't push it back, and 1/2 the lane was filled with snow after all the roads were plowed and salted.
I saw the superintendent the day after this event. I asked him what happened to the guy that used to plow here. He told me they hired a new guy this year. I told him I think the new guy did a very poor job. He said it seemed almost every resident called up and complained about having their cars buried, and about the contractor speeding around the lot. I told him I'd have to agree, considering my wife's car had snow mounded up onto the trunk, almost level with the roof of the car! The super explained that he called the contractor the day after the storm, to have him come back and clean up in places. The contractor flat out refused. The contractor said he did his job, and wasn't coming back. The super ended up clearing behind some of the cars with a snow blower, and around all the dumpsters.
When the snow melted two weeks after the 17" event, you could see where the contractor pushed snow into landscaped beds. You could see the shrubs destroyed, sheared off at the ground, not to mention what was under the piles, you could see all the mulch in the piles too. You could see the sod in piles where he pushed onto grass areas. A "hole" in a row of pine trees where he pushed a pile into (broken limbs). I guess I am spoiled, in the sense that I haven't seen very many reckless snow removal contractors in this area, at least not as reckless as this one. It is hard to say who it was, since all the trucks had no lettering.
Yesterday we got that 4 - 12" snow event, and it ended up being 6" in my market. I was not here all day, and when I got home, the parking lot didn't look bad. I noticed hardly any snow behind parked cars. I didn't think much of it. Today, I heard a plow dropping, and knew that the contractor was here clearing spaces, since most folks were at work. I looked out, and there was the contractor that did this site for the past 5 years. He was out there in his trusty Jeep CJ. They have a 1 ton pickup they use too, but do cleaning up with the CJ. I went out later in the day, and saw the super shoveling up some of the trail off from plowing. I asked him what happened to the "new guy". He told me that they had so many complaints, and that the contractor did a lousy job, and that the county fined the condominium complex for snow pushed out into the street! I just said "no wonder they got the old guy back".
I know none of you plow this way, but it is a reminder to us all to keep up the level of service we provide. This could be an isolated incident. Maybe a new driver, who never plowed this account before, there are many possibilities. The result is that even if the company itself is top notch, they just blemished their reputation BIG TIME by taking on this account.
So remember to familiarize yourselves with your properties. Know every "nook and cranny" of the sites. Come up with a management plan for each site, that way you can give it to any of your plow operators. Sometimes circumstances force us to send out drivers that have never been to a site before, and that's where a plan comes in handy. I will post a few sample diagrams on my website in the next few days, to help give you all an idea of what I mean.
Road Salt Primer
This might be an old one, but it is a great "primer" on the use of salt on roads and pavement. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it, but the program is free at http://www.adobe.com/
You can get those Urethane cutting edges I talked about in my last Issue here. Also urethane spinners for salt spreaders.
This is where my snowplowing discussion forum is, if you haven't been there, check it out. You can learn more here than any other place, anywhere!
Magic Salt - More info.
If you are asked for you network password, just click "cancel" and the file will open right up. I have no idea why it asks for a password.
This company has some VERY interesting products.
©2001 Charles D. Smith
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