Volume 3, Issue #03

November 17, 2001

 

Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter



Well, it certainly has been a while since my last newsletter. I was hoping to have more content for a new issue. I don't want to keep going over the same topics. Any input for future topics will be helpful. Just send me an e mail.

By now most of you should have your routes filled for this year. Many of you might now be going over your plows, getting them ready. We all know how important equipment maintenance is. A hydraulic fluid change should be on your schedule if you haven't changed yours by now. Now is also a good time to get a new tarp for your salt pile, or a new tarp to cover your salter when it's loaded. Having an extra tarp handy is usually a good thing. Even if the spare you have is a cheap one, much like a cheap rainsuit is better than no rainsuit in a pinch. Now is also the time to begin checking the plow emergency repair kits all of you should be carrying. Even if your plow didn't come with a kit, you can put together your own. You can buy an inexpensive plastic toolbox to put all the spare parts in. Plow pins, spare hydraulic hose, spare elbows, and couplers, a pair of trip springs, trip spring eyes, and a spare starter solenoid for the plow pump. These are the items you should be carrying, or at the very least have home in your garage, "just in case". Depending on how many plows you are running, you should have one of these "kits" for each plow, in addition to more items "back at the shop". With several plows, at the shop you sould also have several spare angle cylinders, as well as a case of hydraulic fluid, several sets of plow mounting pins, at least one set of spare plow lights (even if it is an old set), and several sets of plow guides (since they damage so easy), at least one spare cutting edge too. You also want spare screens or filters for your plow pumps, and coil & valve assemblies for the pumps. I also like to keep several spare battery ground cables of various lengths around.


Grounds
Speaking of battery grounds, don't overlook you plow pump's grounding point when you go over your plow. When you clean your electrical connections, don't forget that grounds are just as important as power wires. Keep the connections clean. Use a new tooth washer under the ground bolt. They are cheap, and help insure a better ground, and a better connection when used in general. 

I actually had to move a ground wire once, when a plow stopped working.For some reason, the steel front bumper that was bolted to the truck frame wasn't a good ground anymore. The ground wire from the pump went to the bumper on this Jeep for 10 years. One day, of course when it was snowing, the pump stopped working. After checking all the + connections with a test light, it had to be a ground. With the test light connect to the battery, I tried grounding it to the frame, and the test light came on. Touch it to anywhere on the bumper, even jamming the tip through the paint, no ground. So I ran a new ground to the truck frame. The motor then worked fine.

Last year, I had a ground problem with a Meyer E 60. I narrowed it down to a bad ground at the plow pump / motor assembly. The motor grounded by touching the pump housing, and through the 2 mounting screws. The pump housing is aluminum, and the motor is steel. Guess what? The corrosion between the two was unreal. I wire brushed the housing and the motor, still no ground. I tried dielectric grease on the motor and pump housing, and it got a little better. I was going to weld a ground tab on the motor, but the owner wanted to just get a new motor. Guess what? The new replacement motor has a ground lug on it. They (Meyer) realized the problem with the Meyer E-60, and the motor was changed accordingly. This has not been an issue in the past with the Meyer E-47. Keep in mind, this same principle of steel and aluminum not mating well is in general. Most aluminum aftermarket intake manifolds have a problem sealing properly, especially over time. Even aluminum to aluminum makes a poor seal. I read in a Suzuki shop manual that after you replace a head gasket on one of their engines, when you refill the cooling system, you must use a small amount of "stop leak" to make sure the coolant doesn't leak. It plainly states this is due to the poor sealing properties of aluminum. Anyone who has removed a steel fitting or bolt from a piece of cast aluminum, knows how bad the natural corrosion is.


Timing
Each year, there are always those companies that take forever to put their plowing out to bid. I just think it's amazing how towns and cities can wait so long when saftey should be their main concern. For the past couple of weeks, I have seen "bids wanted" for numerous towns in my area. I even saw an ad for a school system, still out to bid. Snow is a very real possibility in many areas this late in the year. I even met with a manager of a huge disribution center, who was very unhappy with his plowing contractor last year. He did not sign a contract with them yet for this year. The center runs 7days a week, 24 hours a day. Snow can really delay shipments, and be even more costly than the price of plowing services. How can these companies take such a risk? Snow plowing services are much like insurance. Would these same companies do business for a day without any necessary insurance? Of course not. Yet they leave snow removal "to chance" by waiting so long to sign a contract. This particular company I visited, does their largest volume during the holidays. They are risking a lot by not having hired a contractor.


Specifications
Many of these large companies hire a property management company to handle their properties. I am always amazed at how vague the snow plowing specifications are that these management companies come up with. They also make it very clear they know nothing about snow plowing. One example of this comes to mind. The specifications state " Avoid turning into any place where it is necessary to back out into traffic". It also says "Backing into intersections or across pedestrian crosswalks should be avoided". Later in the specifications it says that plowing operations shall be considered complete after the property has been "deemed safe" for pedestrian and vehicular traffic. It does not say whom it needs to be "deemed safe" by. It also says when backing up with only the driver in the truck, the driver must get out each time and make sure there is nothing in his way before he backs up. He also must sound his horn before backing. Can you imagine sounding your horn each time you back up when plowing small parking lots, with residential areas around them, at 3 am? Can you imagine sounding your horn each time you back up when plowing period? Can you imagine how much longer it would take if you had to get out of the truck and look before reversing? Can you imagine how much longer it would take to plow, if you didn't turn into areas that require you to back out into traffic, or into an intersection? I understand these companies want to cover themselves as far as liability, by telling you to avoid these "unsafe practices". The thing is, most plowing techniques in general, would be considered "unsafe" if going by normal traffic laws and standards, but this is not the case. Standard snow removal practices throw all these traffic laws out the window for the most part. And rightfully so in most cases. We are doing a job, and we can break these "rules" in a "safe" manner. It's our job, and most of us do it well. 

What can these companies do to improve their understanding of snow removal operations? They can educate themselves. They don't need a fulltime, year round person to handle snow (though larger corporations might), just someone to research the subject. Speak with local plowing contractors. Speak to your current contractor. Possibly the best way to improve your specifications, is to ask your current contractor his opinion of your specifications. Show your specifications to other contractors, and ask their opinion. At the same time, when a contractor submits a bid for snow removal, keep a list of the specifications. Don't throw away any bids until you pull all the information from them. With this data, you should be able to put together a good set of specifications. In some cases, when thousands of properties are involved for example, it is a good idea to hire a snow removal consultant to write the specifications. You can find consultants at the Snow & Ice Management Association's website, http://www.sima.org/ You can also find snow removal professionals in your area. Additionally, SIMA has a brochure designed to help choose a snow & ice professional.


Links
Tow Behind Spreader - This spreader is 48" wide, and holds up to 800 pounds. Looks like the answer to long sidewalks, and large sites.

OnlineMetals - Small Quantities Specialist - Stainless, Brite Tread Aluminum, Brass, Copper, tubing, bar stock, rod, they also have Acrylic plastics, Nylon, Teflon, and Polycarbonate.

Bonnell Industries Inc. - Truck and Road Equipment - Bonnell has just come out with a new snow pusher.

Pathfinder sells Trip Edge Snowplows and Insert Dump Bodies - Pathfinder Plows.

Professional Ice Melter Information Guide - Propellant 49 de-icer.

NORTHMAN HOMEPAGE - Northman Snow Plows

New Jersey Online: NJ Small Business Development Center - Good tips and information, even if you're not in NJ.

Buying a Business: NJ Small Business Development Center - Good tips and information, even if you're not in NJ.

http://www.nj.com/njsbdc_new/hottopics/legal/legal.txt - This explains a lot about setting up and LLC, or other business status.

Salt Institute Members, A roster of the world's leading salt manufacturers.

Hard Hat News - Construction newspaper.

Birco Wing Plow - Exactly as the name imlies. Wing plows.

ConstructionNetworking.Net - Here's where you can find out what jobs are out to bid in NY, NJ, and CT. Landscaping, construction, snow removal, highway work, and more.

Northeast U.S. Climate Data - Exactly what the name implies.

Snow Management Group - If you want an opportunity to bid on local commercial plowing jobs in your area, be sure to register with SMG.

Weatherbug - Many of us already have this FREE program, I just want to make new subscribers aware of this tool.

Intellicast - I mainly use this site for the time lapsed Doppler radar. This link will take you right to it.

Northern - Tools, Supplies, Snow Plow Parts, Snow Blowers, Salters, etc.

JC Whitney - Vehicle Parts & Accessories. Driving lights, fog lights, loading ramps, trailer accessories, ATV parts and accessories, doors, hoods, fenders, everything automotive.

Eastwood Company - Hard to find tools and autobody supplies. A full line of die cast collectibles, old signs, and great automobilia. They have some great gifts.




2001 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.
More great info at: http://www.snowplowing-contractors.com
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Back Issues Of Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter

  • Volume 3, Issue # 03
    November 17, 2001
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