More Snow Plowing Q & A

New 9/13/99

Q:

"You have done a great job with your site, lots of information. I run an 89 3/4 ton Chevy v6(4.3), 8' Fisher, plows great, and not enough power to do damage to the rig. I don't like the trip edge. What is your experience with the new PULL PLOWS? Keep up the good work..Gene"



A:

Hi Gene,

I too, don't like the bottom trip design. I do like Fisher's hydraulic system though. I run Meyer plows. They are easy to fix, and parts are easier to find than Fisher. (many friends use Meyer, so spare parts are easy to "borrow" during storms). The pull plows seem OK for places you'd normally have to "back drag." Like in front of garage doors, when plowing residential driveways. I see no other "real use" for them. It seems to me, the last thing you want is hydraulic down pressure, when plowing a weak, old, 1/2 torn up driveway. The higher the "crown" (center of the driveway), the more chance down pressure will rip it up in places. Nothing worse than having to go back and fix things in the spring. Especially in front of the garage door. There is almost always two depressions, where the cars front tires have been sitting for the past 20 years, every time the homeowner parks. Fixing curbs is easy, anyone can mix up some mortar, and make repairs. Repairing asphalt, is a bit more difficult for most. The "driveway patch" sold at home centers, really won't hold up very long. Most likely, you'd rip it up again the next time you plow.

~Chuck

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Q:

"I heard about your pages from: Fisher Snowplow Home page. I have just got a 1999 3/4 ton Chevy Silverado, with a new Fisher Minute Mount Assembly. Actually the plow will be installed 9/13. I have been plowing for 11 yrs. including the Blizzard of '93 up here in Central NY, 48" in 3 days, plowed for 72 hrs. I have 48 residential accounts and 1 bakery. I dropped a gas station, because they didn't pay timely enough. Any hints on a new plow system? Site is nice, I will visit often I think."



A:

My brother rides his snow mobile near you. I'm trying to remember the town......... About 4 hours north of us here in NJ. North of Albany somewhere, even the cops ride snowmobiles in the winter. One of his friends up there has a 72 Blazer, with a 327 Chevy motor mounted in the back, that powers a 7' sno blower up front. He took a bunch of pics of it last time he was there. I want to scan a few, for my pages.

As far as your new plow. Since it's still warm out, the first thing I'd do is wash and wax it. Give it several coats of wax. You won't be able to wax it all winter..... heck up until May 2000 I bet!!!! My brother was still riding up there in April this year. What brand of plow were you using before? Which is your favorite now and why?

From what I can see, Fisher makes a strong plow. The RD & HD moldboards are 11ga. steel. Their EZ V plow only uses 12ga. steel, surprisingly slightly thinner than the RD, and HD models. 1ga. isn't much difference I know, but still thicker.

I like the large hydraulic fluid reservoir Fisher uses, and always have. I don't like the bottom trip design. Something I've seen around here, is wrapping the hydraulic lines in pipe insulation, and taping it up. This is to maintain temperature in the lines. Usually on older vehicles with leaky systems though. I like the idea, keeps the fluid warm between stops in cold weather. In 11 years I'm sure your plow wouldn't lower at least once, or would only angle right, due to ice in the system. Another benefit is protecting the hoses from the elements, UV rays are murder. That's common if you'd be storing your blade and pump outdoors. Protect the whole assembly from the sun. Don't wrap it tight, moisture will get in somehow. Even if you just lay a sheet of plywood over it. I'm curious why you didn't buy a V plow. The are well worth the extra $300- $500. I've heard nothing but good about them. I bet they'd be great for breaking through the drifts you often have to deal with. They are great for cleaning up parking lots as well. By the way, if you ever plow a gas station, do it for GAS. You get paid right away. Yes, they make some money back from you, but at least you kill 2 birds with one stone. Fill up dual tanks, or 2 trucks, and 2 gas cans. Then you also ask to put a small sign in their window, and if you can leave some business cards. I got more than one commercial contract from my sign in a station we used to plow.

I know they have those powerwasher stations on the highways up there. Rinse the salt off your new blade and pump as often as possible. I like the old Fisher pump, mounted under the hood. Self contained, not the pump that mounts on the engine. My favorite blade is the Western. They look strong, and plow great. They stack snow higher than Meyer and Fisher. I like Meyer's plow frame assembly that mounts on the truck the best. The old style. Guess my dream plow set up would be a total hybrid. If I had to buy a brand new blade tomorrow, I'd get a Western V plow.

In the spring, when you take your blade off, wash and wax it. During the plowing season, change your hydraulic fluid. Clean any strainers or filters for the hydraulic system too. Use only the recommended fluid for your hydraulic system. Don't mix brands or types of hydraulic fluid. Don't "just use trans fluid." Trans fluid is HIGH detergent. Any gunk in the system will get loosened by using trans fluid. My brother topped off his system a few times, the fluid was Meyer fluid. He added ATF. The plow slowed down a week or two later. I drained the fluid, and it was black as coal. Meyer's says to only use Kerosene to flush the fluid reservoir, and clean parts, since it won't harm any seals. I'd assume it's safe to use for cleaning yours to. Never try to circulate it through the system!!!! DO NOT OPERATE THE PUMP WITH KEROSENE ANYWHERE NEAR IT!!!!

Well, It's getting very, very late here. Time for bed.

~Chuck



----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q:

"I plowed a job for a school system when the engineer hired me

and told me to take care of it and send him the bill.

I did the job and they never paid since they said the bill was to

high?

This was during a 30" blizzard.

Since snowplow contractors charge different hourly rates or by

the job I was wondering what you thought was an acceptable

hourly rate a contractor should get for a commercial type job --

one that the engineer had special requirements where he wanted

snow put and moved. Etc.

Bill"



A:

Bill,

Contracts are a must. Prices are outlined, and specific job requirements are put in writing. A verbal agreement is quickly distorted, or forgotten. Hourly rates vary from area to area. The size of the trucks, and blades even, dictate different prices. Additional charges for moving snow on site is not uncommon. Naturally, hauling snow off the site is an additional charge, as is stacking on site, with a front end loader.

As far as not getting paid, I'd pursue it. Most State Boards of Education want to keep a good image. Call and complain. Get a lawyer.

Schools are tricky. I know, I did maintenance at one for 5 years. They stockpile money, and collect the interest. That's why they pay everything on a schedule. When they don't there's added interest. They better be able to account for the money that was allotted for snowplowing that year. Did they claim that blizzard's expense on their taxes? Talk to members of the board of education. See what they say. Talk to the Superintendent of Schools. Go over the engineer's head. Talk to the Business Administrator.

Now, I was going to bid on my town's schools parking and paved areas plowing contract last year. I didn't. I came very close though. The requirements were very stringent, and specific. the reason I didn't, was due to a lack of a bond, or a check for the amount of the job total. They hold onto it, and if I fail to live up to my end, they would use my money, to pay another contractor to plow. They make 2 payments to who ever has the contract. One mid season, and the other in March, at the end. The contract, and amounts are for THE ENTIRE SEASON, the same price if we get 1 snowfall, or 25 snowfalls. This makes bidding very difficult. Prices are low for the most part. In the past 5 years we've had 17 storms one year, and 4 another year. Sometimes you make out, sometimes you don't. The guy that plowed during the blizzard, got a huge bonus. There is a clause, for getting 18 "+ of snow in a 24hr period. A bonus is set aside for it, lucky for him he got it. It was an extra $5,000, between the 5 schools he did. Each has it's own bonus amount. The board uses different contractors at different schools too. A separate contractor always gets the salting contract, on a per call payment schedule.



The requirements:

All vehicles used for plowing must be equipped with chains.

All vehicles must have ballast in them, for better traction.

A front end loader will be available at all times during the contract for stacking snow.

Plowing must be completed by 7am on school days, and within 24 hrs of the end of the storm when school is closed.

All driveways must be kept open, at all schools during snowfalls.



Unwritten requirements:

Snow can't be stacked near the building.

Drains cant be covered.

Areas where students board buses must be kept clear.

Many areas snow can't be stacked, or piled in.

Cross walks can't be blocked.

Many fire zones to clear.

After cars move, you have to clean up where they were parked.

As snow melts, you are sometimes expected to move piles back.

They need all the parking spaces they can get, and can be a pain in the....

and a bunch more....



Hourly rates can vary from $50 - $70hr for a truck with driver, even doing roads for the State. Most pay hourly, with different rates, for different size blades. It doesn't matter how many inches. When they call, you go, and plow till they say stop. I charge by the job and the amount of snow, not the hour, not the season. I have found it to be the most profitable.

~Chuck





Reply:

"Chuck :

what they remember is the last guy who use to do it very cheap,

He since had a heart attack and is dead.

The new guy, me, wants to live a long snowplowing life and make

a profit.

Bill"

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Another Reply:

"Dear Chuck:

I enjoy your web site alot. The case is coming up for a trial.

I originally priced the snowplowing by the job. But the school

system wanted an hourly rate computation which they got.

I have the burden of showing my hourly rate is the reasonable

value of my services. I'm not sure on how to do this since

hourly rates are different in the industry.

What range do you think hourly rates might fall in?

Bill"



A:

Bill,

The best way to prove your rates are reasonable, would be to show what your hourly rates were for other accounts, during the same blizzard. Maybe you could compute a percentage increase over the normal price, due to the fact that so much fell so fast. The National Weather Service even called it The Storm of The Century.

You got 30". I'm in NJ, and where I am, we got 26" from the blizzard. I have a friend that does a lot of commercial plowing up in Connecticut too. Are you by chance in NJ or Conn? Do you have any friends in the business that would share an invoice or two from that storm with you? So you can show your prices were the status quo?

Around here, front end loaders were between $150 & $200 with an operator, per hour during, and after the blizzard. They were in great demand, as snow had to be stacked everywhere. There was week long waiting lists at every rental center for any kind of machine with a front bucket, no matter how big, or how old. Plows just couldn't pile it high enough. I moved about 10 yards of snow, 6 feet, at a doctors office, with a front end loader. He was billed $400.00. I even opened up a lane for traffic, since the road was not done "curb to curb". I had one man wearing a vest doing traffic, cones set up, and took about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. It was an astronomical amount of snow, with drifts exceeding 6 feet in some areas. The Governor in NJ declared a State of Emergency. That says a lot. As you say, an hourly price is difficult. Did you break any equipment plowing in the blizzard? Have to pay workers overtime? Incur unexpected costs you had to cover, that weren't usual costs? Hire Sub Contractors? I've found hourly, it varies greatly as I said before. The best gauge would be what you charged other accounts, or what other Contractors were charging for the same storm.

Have you ever heard of S.I.M.A.? The Snow and Ice Management Association? They might be able to help you. Tammy, is a great gal. I'm sure there was much discussion after the blizzard about pricing. They have a message board for members. It's very informative. Your dilemma is one of the reasons SIMA was formed. No organization of this industry. No voice to be heard, or represent us. I strongly urge you to join if you haven't already. Dues have actually gone down in price.

In theory, if a 6" snowfall costs $100, then a 12 "could cost $200. It is twice the work, twice the strain on equipment, and takes twice as long.

Did the job get completed satisfactorily, on time? No snags? Were they happy until they got the bill? Did they notice other businesses snowed in? Do they realize prices rise when the snowfall exceeds a certain amount in 24hrs?

~Chuck



Reply:

"Dear Chuck:

I live in Chicago. Since the storm my fuel line rotted away, my

power steering lines rotted away, my tires dry rotted and needed

to be replaced, my front brakes needed a complete overhaul

for a 1990 ford f350 7.3 liter diesel 4x4. My ujoints all needed

to be replaced - the fourth time. And they complain about my

charges. My driveshaft had to be rebuilt.

You have some good ideas - I guess I have to just argue to the

judge that professional snow plowing is an expensive undertaking-

with the equipment that is needed and how it gets abused and

with the costs of insurance and parts a plower has to get a

good hourly rate to stay in business.

Bill"



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Another Q from Bill:

"Chuck:

Suppose you were bidding on a job with the following specs:

Main Parking Lot - 16,380 square feet

Side Drive to Main Parking Lot - 3,600 square feet.



And lets say you plowed the job 2 times. But each time there

was so much snow you could only use a half blade. So it

took double the time because of the large quantity of snow.

And you charged on a per push or by the job price.

What would be your bill? "



A:

Main Parking Lot - 16,380 square feet



Using the same rate below, multiplied gives me $910.00. That sounds fair for 20"+ of snow.

>>>>>>>>>>>>

Side Drive to Main Parking Lot - 3,600 square feet.



A driveway say 36' wide, 100' long. With say 20"+ on it, or to be cleared total, in a 24hr period....... If I could I'd charge $200.00. Remember, a larger truck and plow can easily do it in one pass. Say a Tandem with a 12' blade or even a single axle with a 9' blade and ballast. That must be kept in mind when bidding on larger jobs.



My Invoice would be about $1,110.00, possibly rounded off to $1,000.00, or rounded up to $1,200.00. Remember, I'm saying this without ever seeing the job.



~Chuck





----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q:

"I have a question that know one in my area seems to be able to answer I

hope you can.

Meyer makes a snowplow for a 1989 ford ranger but not for a 1990 ford

ranger we can't see any difference between the two trucks do you know

what the difference is and will a 89 setup work on a 90?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Glen

77 F-250 460 4spd. 7.5 Meyer"





A:

Hi Glen,

I just checked Meyer's web site. I see it says " ....up to 89". It's hard for me to say why. I drove a Ranger for a while at a job I had back in 86, it was peppy. They had a Meyer plow on it. I know my 73 - 87 Chevy trucks inside and out. I know how to fix Meyer and other makes of plows. I know as much as you do about what fits what though.

It seems something changed in 1990. Maybe Ford would not put a plow on a Ranger anymore, as a factory option, and said if anyone put one on, it would void their warranty? This would cause Meyer to discontinue the mounting hardware, and list only up to 89. Then again, does Western, Diamond, or Fisher make one for the Ranger after 1989? Let me check.......Nope, NONE of them specify on their website what their plows will fit. If you had an 89 Ranger to compare your 1990 to, you should compare:



Which transmission each truck has.

Which front axle, and frame design each has.

The GVWR Frnt: of both vehicles, located on a decal on the drivers door, or door jamb. Is the 89 a higher weight rating than the 90?

Do both trucks have the same type of front suspension?(ie: coils, torsion bars, etc.)

Are the front ends visually different?

Different bumper designs?

Different radiator designs or sizes?

Different steering?( this is very important, some steering systems can't hold up to weight on them)

Vehicle track widths the same on both?(outside tire sidewall on one side, measure over to the other tire's outside sidewall. Same?

Axle and transmission ratios the same on both?

Both use the same 4wd transfer case?

Use a tape measure and be sure all up front is exactly the same, framewise.........EXACTLY.

If all of the above was identical for sure, 100%, then I'd get the plow mounting hardware kit for the 1989, and put it on the 1990. The 1990's warranty is long over, so YOU are the one taking a chance. Don't buy the blade right away. Try mounting the upper and lower plow frames first. buy it as a package, but explain to the Meyer Dealer, that you want to be sure it fits properly, you should still pay the same price as for a complete set up. Unless you have a blade already. Then buying the frames is not so expensive. The pump, and blade are the costly parts of the set up.

Hope it helps.

~Chuck

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q:

"the newer v-plows the good and ugly of plowing with these things, are they worth the extra money and the extra maintenance?"



A:

Yes for commercial. No for residential. The truck you mount it on better be strong too. Scooping in the V position, and moving a huge pile is hard for todays 1/2 and 3/4 ton trucks. Everyone I know that has a V plow, will never buy a straight blade again.

They're best mounted on a 3/4, or 1 ton truck.

~Chuck



----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q:

"I'm new to plowing do i need an attachment to pull snow backwards away from buildings etc. In tight areas"



A:

The pull plows seem ok for places you'd normally have to "back drag". Like in front of garage doors, when plowing residential driveways. I see no other "real use" for them. It seems to me, the last thing you want is hydraulic down pressure, when plowing a weak, old, 1/2 torn up driveway. The higher the "crown" (center of the driveway), the more chance down pressure will rip it up in places. Nothing worse than having to go back and fix things in the spring. Especially in front of the garage door. There is almost always two depressions, where the cars front tires have been sitting for the past 20 years, every time the homeowner parks. Fixing curbs is easy, anyone can mix up some mortar, and make repairs. Repairing asphalt, is a bit more difficult for most. The "driveway patch" sold at home centers, really won't hold up very long. Most likely, you'd rip it up again the next time you plow, especially if you repaired it when it was still cold out. Waiting until spring, could result in even more damage, every time you plow until it gets warmer out.

~Chuck



Q:

"MY brother has a 94 chev ex cab 1.5 ton 350, My truck is a 82gmc1.5 jimmy deisel 6.2 with lockouts on front. we both have 235 x85 16,s. No posi in either truck. Also both are about the same in value with over 125,000 miles each. WE have very limited funds.WE want to put meyers plow on one of them . Which one do you think would plow better. Please help us , we have a few month to prepare. Thank -you for this info. Jim and Jerry"



A:

Jim & Jerry,

Ok. I'll try to explain this as best I can. Put the plow on the 82 Jimmy. Since funds are limited, I'd go with a standard Meyer 7.5' plow. Not the QuikMount. Get the E-47 plow pump, not the E-60 Quik Lift. The 94 is longer, and makes plowing tight driveways a pain. If the front CV joints went on the 94's axle, it would mean big $$ to fix. If the u joints on the 82 go, they can be changed alot easier. Maybe you could even change them yourself. Plowing, they do get worn faster than usual. The Jimmy is easier to maneuver in general. The downfall, is that you have no open bed to put in a snow blower. Yes, a blower would fit in the Jimmy, but you might have to leave the handles sticking out the open tailgate window. Still, I'd put the plow on the Jimmy.

A friend of mine plowed 1 season with a 93 1/2 ton extended cab Silverado. He had alot of trouble doing driveways. The added weight of the plow bottomed out his front suspension all the time. The blade even scraped the ground sometimes when he turned into driveways with it fully raised!! Your 94, has torsion bar front suspension, the 82 has leaf springs. Ask anyone, torsion bars dmn't handle added weight like leafs. Torsion barsgive the "carlike" ridepeople expect from a truck nowadays, sad but true. PUT IT ON THE 82!! Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!!!!!!

Any more questions, feel free to ask!

~Chuck





Reply:

"Thanks again chuck Thats what where going to do is put a meyer on the 82 gmc jimmy. I was surprised when you answered our questions so fast . Your answers made a lot of sense . I talked to a meyer sales rep ,He,s pushing a little bit towards a mold board plow, Of course it means a little more money in his pocket. 90% of the plowing we will be doing is on dirt and gravel driveways . I'm going with the standard steel as you suggested. it's what we can afford. I didn't see any comparisment, steel Vs, moldboard, in your web pages so what my brother and I are curious, what is your expert opinion. Thanks again, let it snow ,snow snow Jim and Jerry Northern MN."



A:

Hi guys,

Pretty simple. The blade it's self as we call it, is also refered to as the "moldboard" .

You are asking which is better, a steel moldboard, or a Poly (plastic) one?

If you check the weights of the two different moldboards and A frame assemblies, you'll notice that the poly one is heavier than the steel. Seems odd, as plastic should be lighter than steel. The reason is that the poly moldboard being weaker, needs a stronger, heavier steel frame. The only benefit is not having to paint the blade, and no worry about rust. The drawback is that *if for any reason whatsoever* the poly moldboard breaks, cracks, or gets a hole in it, you need a new one. If anything happens to a steel moldboard, all you need is a welder, or a welding shop near by. I've welded my moldboard several times, and others with no problems. I had a friend with a SnoWay made of Lexan ("bulletproof glass") moldboard hit a 2" x 4" head on butt end against a curb. The end punched a clean fist sized hole in the moldboard. SnoWay warrantied it, but it took 2 weeks to get the new one. I can weld a crack in a steel one in my driveway with my 110v MIG welder in 5 minutes, and go back to plowing. Big difference!

~Chuck

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q:

"How much weight do you recommend in back inside over rear axel for my 82 1,5 gmc jimmy with 7.5 plow thanks again jim"





A:

That's hard to say. I always carry bags of rock salt, for de-icing. Two 80 pound bags between my wheels helped me alot with traction. I carry too much gear. Between the salt, hand salt spreader, snowblower, and shovels, plus the sideboards on my truck, traction is not a problem. Sounds like you could use a Snowplowing Handbook ;)

~Chuck

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Q:

"Dear Chuck,

My name is Dave P. and I live in Northeast Pa. This will be

my first year plowing commercially. I have a small development. I was

wondering how should I charge, by the hour or a flat rate, for plowing

and cindering. The roads are less than a quarter mile long and are all

flat. When the snow reaches three inches they will call me out. I

would really appreciate a response back.

THANK YOU"



A:

Hi Dave,

First of all, the computer you sent this e mail on is infected with the Happy99.exe VIRUS. Ok, how you price can vary. Typically, when sub contracting for someone else, you get paid by the hour. Plowing for Counties, and Towns is hourly pay.

commercially and residentially I give a flat rate, for various amounts of snow.

My first price is for 1-8" in a 24 hour period. It's ok if they only want me to come for 4" and up. I still give the price of 1-8" so they understand if they call me on a 2" storm, the price is the same. Essentially, that's how much I get as a minimum, when plowing them. Then I go to 9-13", then 14-20", then 21-26". So it may look like:



1-8"=======$100.00

9-13"======$135.00

14-20"=====$200.00

21-26"=====$285.00

Salt or cinders included. It makes it easier. I also give a separate price for salt, in case they call for just salt after an ice storm.

Then again, it depends on what your overhead is on the job, but generally speaking, you'll lose money charging by the hour. I have 2 accounts, 50 yds apart, that in an hour I make over $500.00. Around here, the hourly sub contractor pay is around $90 for a truck with a 7.5' blade. See what I mean? By having increments in the cost of plowing, you are adequately compensated for the extra time it takes to plow 9" as opposed to 3". Remember that 6"+ storms require plowing the whole job twice, at least. Once after 3" has accumulated, and again at the end of the storm. As a general rule, charging hourly, YOU lose.

~Chuck



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