Overcoming challenges in the snow and ice industry
by Ellen Kobach & Brian Birch, SIMA
As this past winter proved, it is not easy to predict what the season will bring, whether it is too much snow or not enough snow. The 2008/2009 winter season will again be a challenge for snow and ice professionals. A number of social, economic and environmental factors will add complexity to the already difficult business of maintaining safe conditions during harsh winter storms. Despite these challenges, snow can be viewed as a business stabilizer, as one thing is evident: It will snow, and customers are going to need to be serviced. By staying up to date on industry trends and planning for the unexpected, snow and ice professionals can provide safety to the public while continuing to make a profit.
Rising costs and economic challenges
It’s no secret that the cost of doing business is becoming a challenge for many companies Cost increases will also affect the snow and ice industry, where heavy equipment and materials are needed for snow and ice removal. The Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) suggests companies take a look at the efficiency of their operations to cut costs and prepare for the upcoming season, including these areas:
- Route planning and optimization
- Monitoring of employee/sub-contractor performance
- Calibration of spreader systems to ensure accuracy
- Use of compact skid-steer loaders and other multi-purpose equipment
- Utilization of new plow technologies that increase efficiency (i.e. containment plows, hydraulic/automatic wing-plows, etc.)
- Consider anti-icing as another tool to manage snow and ice
Salt supply challenges
After heavy and continuous snowfall in the Midwest, Great Lakes and northern New England regions, many contractors and SIMA members had difficulty keeping a steady supply of salt for their services last season. This may be a continuing challenge for the industry, especially in areas where winter is moderate to heavy. What can snow professionals do?
- Be proactive: Maintain communication with customers, and make sure they understand the complexity inherent in managing a steady supply of salt in the midst of high demand and unusual circumstances.
- Form better relationships: Contractors should get to know their main supplier of salt on more than just a call-when-you-need-them basis. Forming a better relationship also means listening to the supplier and making a strong effort to understand where they are coming from and the challenges they face in their business.
- Get to know more than one supplier: Forming more than one relationship is paramount to any business where supply could be an issue.
- Review salting practices: Calibrating spreaders can help monitor usage and ensure that salt isn’t being wasted.
- Consider anti-icing: Anti-icing has become a great tool for many contractors in certain situations. While it won’t solve the problem entirely or replace salt, it may help you conserve your supply when times are tight.
- Buy earlier: Contractors who are willing to purchase now will have better opportunities to secure the salt they need for at least a portion of the season.
Being proactive in meeting these challenges will separate a strong snow and ice contractor from the pack. Meeting with customers to discuss these challenges before the season begins, monitoring and improving efficiencies in operations, implementing a smart salt plan, utilizing more environmentally safe products for anti-icing, and open, honest communication with clients and the media will help snow and ice service providers meet these challenges head-on.
Plow with automatically adjustable wings
The Speedwing from Blizzard can automatically adjust its wings to give the best plow configuration. For straight plowing, the plow defaults to a scoop position. When the blade is angled, the leading wing maintains a forward position to prevent spillover while the trailing wing drops back in line with the main moldboard. For back dragging, the wings can be fixed in straight-blade position.
Snow and ice scraping technology
Arctic’s Sectional snow plow for wheel loaders and skid steers features steel trip edges that scrape down to the pavement and trip over obstacles nine inches tall. Its mechanical side panels move up and down on impact, clearing hidden objects beneath the snow.
A straight blade for heavy-duty use
Western’s contractor-grade Pro Plus straight blade comes in widths from 71/2 feet to 9 feet. The blade is designed to fit various vehicles from 3/4 ton to F-550 size trucks. Built with power bar construction to eliminate blade twisting, the pivot point features a one-inch pivot bolt to ease nose plate stress. The A-frame construction uses three-inch square tubing to provide increased strength.
Polyurethane cutting edges for plows
Fall Line’s polyurethane snowplow cutting edges offer several advantages including minimal surface damage, the absence of rust marks and better abrasion resistance in comparison with rubber and most metals. Fall Line’s cutting edges are safe for use on pavers and textured surfaces and feature low noise operation.
Salt spreader for pickup trucks
With the V-box spreader from Avalanche, contractors can spread salt effectively without leaving their truck’s cab. An in-cab electronic speed control gives users the ability to vary the spreading rate, and a vibrator motor guarantees continuous salt flow. The V-box spreader also features a single material feed auger and all electric power.
New contractor-class plow from Meyer
The Lot Pro from Meyer Products features a 32-inch-high moldboard with a 75-degree attack angle for better clearing and back dragging. Operated with a standard pistol-grip controller, the Lot Pro connects quickly and easily using the single plug connector with silver-coated pins to guard against rusting.
V-Plows’ design offers protection from obstacles
Hiniker’s line of trip-edge V-Plows features a pinch-free pivot point located nine inches above ground level to protect against higher obstacles such as curbs and parking barriers. Each side of the plow trips independently producing smoother tripping action, and 12 laser-cut ribs are built into the plow’s structure to provide strength in heavy-duty applications.
Fisher X-tremeV snow plow
The XtremeV V-plow from Fisher Engineering is available in 71/2-, 81/2- and 91/2-foot widths in powder-coated or stainless-steel options. Other features include all-new hydraulics which produce a 50-percent increase in operating speed, as well as double acting cylinders for efficient backdragging.
Clear paths with polymer moldboards
Curtis Industries’ Sno-Pro Polymer line of snowplows features polymer moldboards constructed of high-density, impact-resistant polymer with extensive bracing. The 7.5- and 8-foot models include a full moldboard trip or trip-edge design for safety. The polymer blades provide a slicker surface compared with painted metal, which translates to less stress on a truck’s drive train.
System aides in road anti-icing
GVM Inc.’s ABS-800 is designed to convert dry rock salt, calcium or magnesium chloride flakes to liquid form for prewetting or anti-icing of roads. The pump, controlled with manually or with a pump switch, transfers liquid from the wet end of the make tank to the storage tank and then on to the truck-mounted tanks.
Snow thrower discharges snow up to 30 feet away
Grasshopper’s PTO-driven snow throwers are available in 48- and 60-inch models for its True ZeroTurn FrontMount units. Constructed of heavy-gauge welded steel, the snow throwers feature a 12-inch diameter auger and replaceable scraper blade. The discharge spout is controlled from the operator’s seat and can rotate 180 degrees to throw snow up to 30 feet away.