Chapter 18


I bet you're asking yourself what Summer has to do with plowing snow. Well, it has a lot to do with it! Believe it or not, now is when many property owners are getting most of the proposals the receive for snow plowing. Some property managers are getting their budget funds for the next fiscal year. Many Municipal, and County governments begin their fiscal year July 1st. This means they start accepting bids on projects for the next year. Snowplowing is a major concern in many areas, so it's usually something that goes out for bids right away. For instance, in August, my town's Board of Education usually puts a notice in our local paper that they are accepting bids. Snowplowing is one of many others they post. Among the others they post is for a de-icing contract. They rarely give the plowing and de-icing contracts to the same contractor. I'm not exactly sure why, other than if they used one contractor for both, and the salt truck broke while plowing, they'd really be in a jam. I start sending out snow plowing proposals in August. First to my customers from the previous year, then I try to get new accounts that I've had my eye on. Snowplowing is a year round "state of mind". You have to keep on your toes to get new contracts. We all know it's not an easy task. When new buildings are built in your area, make a note in your plowing notebook. If you know a business with a large parking lot is changing owners, try your best to speak to the new owner. If any of the properties you plow are being sold, talk to the owner or property manager. Try to get them to recommend you to the new owner. When you write your proposal, attach a cover letter explaing you've been doing the plowing for "the past 5 years" etc. Now is a good time to take a close look at your regular plowing accounts. The ones you know will accept your proposal, especially if you haven't seen the property in months. Alot can change in a few months. Bring a Site Survey form and note any changes from the previous year. I had a house a few doors down from my own. The curb along the driveway was the property line. On the other side of the driveway was a retaining wall, and that lead up to the house foundation, which ran another 40 feet. So I had a driveway with either pushing the snow in front of the blade, or angling it to one side, the curb side. Well the house next door to my account was sold. The new owner immediately fenced in his yard with a 6' tall stockade fence. Now I had to keep the plow straight. This added a lot of strain when plowing. At the time I was plowing with a Jeep, and a 12" snowfall was a real job, compared to before the fence. I had another account I didn't see for 2 months. I always pushed all the snow to the back of the large parking lot. I happen to drive by it before the first snowfall, luckily. The owner had a Nursery & Garden Center come in and plant a row of flowers, shrubs, and trees exactly where I pushed all the snow to. I had to change the way I plowed the lot. It ended up taking me more time, and put more stress on my truck, since I then had to plow uphill, instead of downhill. Yet another account, had woods next to it. I pushed all the snow from the parking lot into the woods. Over the summer, the land was cleared and a nursing home was built. The woods were now a newly sodded lawn with shrubs, just in time for plowing. Now, I once again had to plow uphill, and make several piles with the snow, instead of along the whole edge of the woods As you can see, there's many things more than at first glance when it comes to plowing snow. We know new fences, and planting beds can be a problem sometimes. We know new neighbors can be a problem as well as new property owners. I even had an account, where I found out the business changed hands when I went to plow it for the first snowfall. There was another contractor doing it. He was the one who told me. I stopped by there the next morning, and sure enough the gas station had a new owner! Keeping in contact with the person who signs your snow plowing proposal in the "off season" is a good idea. Another change that affected my plowing operations happened at an account where half of the the building was sold. A Daycare Center moved in over the Summer. They redesigned their half of the parking area, adding islands, narrowing sections, adding guardrails too. They finished by September. I checked the job in October, and September, since it's less than 200 yards from my house. Everything was the same as September. What they did didn't affect my plowing much at all. They added several sidewalks, and I adjusted my prices accordingly. I passed by in mid November, and out of the corner of my eye I saw yellow as I passed the driveway. I turned around, and pulled into the lot. Speed bump. Looking ahead four more were visible. This would be a major concern. Speed bumps are often installed incorrectly. I've seen people use bags of asphalt repair, like that which is sold at home centers. These move very easily, intact I might add. By that I mean the plow moves a section of the speed bump, occasionally the whole thing. They usually break though. The reason is usually that water got under the speed bump, between it and the original pavement. The first freeze it expands, and usually separates the two. Asphalt applied cold, without a tack coat, or milling of the surface, cannot bond properly. Improper compaction will result in a speed bump that will be scraped up like a pancake by your blade. These speed bumps require that you lift your blade when going over them. This can be tedious. Sometimes you hit them hard enough to move them, yet feel nothing. A loose bump offers little resistance to your plow's momentum, even at very slow approach speeds. A properly installed speed bump you can slowly drive over with your blade down. Keep in mind that your plows sleds can damage the speed bumps, and should be removed. Never backdrag over any speed bump! This nearly always results in damage. The plows A frame and protruding bolts can easily rip chunks out of speed bumps, and again you'll feel nothing when doing it. Alert property owners as soon as possible of any damaged areas of pavement found during the summer. Eventually, I'd like to video tape the speed bumps, sidewalks, and parking areas at all my accounts. This is to cover myself, in case they try to blame existing damage on my plowing operations. Even taking photographs of only damaged areas you think may get worse, or that may be a problem. The advantage of having photos, is you can show them to the driver that will be plowing each account. It can be very hard trying to judge what's under the snow if you've never seen it that way. Another common occurrence with speed bumps is the plowing contractor getting blamed for any damage to speed bumps during the plowing season. I had some damaged at one account. It was clear that it was from a car with a low exhaust system. Two grooves, like from a muffler clamp. A 5/8" diameter angle cylinder bolt leaves a deeper, wider groove that an exhaust clamp, that's for sure. The new type of speed bumps, that are made from recycled tires can really be a problem as well. Many places that use them remove them for the plowing season. They are attached to the parking lot surface with anchors, or spikes. On a similar note, concrete parking stops, can be a problem as well. They are usually held in place with steel re-bar. Depending on where they are, they can prevent you from pushing snow all the way back to the curb. Typically placed about 2 feet from the curb. You can still raise your blade to clear the tops of them, and push the snow back farther, until your tires hit the stop. Instead of making one final pass along the edge of the lot with the blade angled full to one side, you now have to plow perpendicular to the curb, blade straight. Plan on as many straight bucking pushes as necessary. I made a note this Spring about one of my smaller accounts. The driveway apron was easy to plow. Raise the blade a little, and push the snow over the low curb, and onto the grass on each side. It seems the property owner got tired of long delivery trucks going over the curb, and across the grass, trying to make the wide turn onto the road. What the owner did, was add cement filled pipes in the ground, about four feet tall, spaced three feet apart. They were only 12" back from the curb. Now I'll have to push the snow from the apron into the parking lot and to one side, instead of stacking snow on the grass, on each side of the apron. This isn't too bad in a 1 - 6 inch storm, but a 12"+ storm will take significantly longer to plow. Remember, you want to move snow the least amount of distance, and make every pass count. Guardrails can pose a big problem. Depending on where they are put, you could lose an account because of them. If a two foot tall guardrail was put around say, three sides of a parking area for example. If the snow could be put in front of the guardrails, then you'd be ok. If space is a major factor, and the snow must go over the guardrail, you'd have a very hard time without a front end loader. Either that, or you'd spend a lot more time "bucking" the snow over the guardrails. You'd be risking hitting the curb, or the guardrail with every straight push too. Larger trucks, that can use 9' blades have options. There are highway style blades that can direct the snow over the guardrails better. Even still, is the job worth buying a special blade for? There are other things that can affect your plowing. Damaged and potholed areas of parking lots should be noted. Stop by and see the person who signs your proposal after your summer site survey. Explain to them if they don't get it repaired before the first snowfall that you will definitely damage it when plowing. Make a note on your proposal stating you will not be liable for damage to the pavement, if the parking lot is not repaired properly prior to plowing. Now is also a good time to paint your plow if you have the time. Painting during the colder months results in a finish that never fully cures before the first time you plow. The paint will last longer, and protect your plow from rust better if the paint has a chance to fully cure. Even though it's warmer out, don't be tempted to apply thick coats. Several thin coats are always better. You might want to take it a step further, and add a clear coat to help protect the finish even more. When the afternoon temperatures are still in the 60's in the fall, give your plow a coat or two of wax. That way the paint has had plenty of time to cure. Many snow plow dealers are anxious to get rid of new plows from the previous year. Now is a good time to get a better price on a new blade if you can afford it. Keep in mind that if you go plow shopping in say April, you'll probably get an even better deal. If the plow designs haven't changed at all since the previous year, and the plow dealer has a place to store his new plows, the prices may not be significantly lower. Now is also a good time to take inventory of plowing items you carry, and keep handy. Make a list of what you need to buy, and anything you need to do to the vehicle before plowing season. You can start a little at a time. Pick up hydraulic fluid next week. Get the new angle hose and coupling you need the next week, etc. That way it doesn't hurt your pocket as much. You can also get a good deal by purchasing items you need when they are on sale. Things like gas line anti-freeze (dry gas), anti-freeze coolant, window washer fluid, and motor oil. Gear oil or ATF, depending on what you use where. Other handy items might be fuses, bulbs, electrical tape, a package of shop rags, RainX , new wiper blades, and anything you need for repairs before plowing. If you plan on doing a tune up, buy the parts now, and do the job when you have the time. Having the parts handy makes the job go a lot faster.

The above Chapter is taken from The Snowplowing Handbook 1998 - 2003 Charles D. Smith


  Here is a prime example of why Site Diagrams are a must - What Lies Beneath The Snow

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