While you enjoy the warm, sunny weather, remember winter is just a few months away for many areas. To make sure your snow removal services are ready for whatever Mother Nature brings this year, here are some equipment tips from George Chaney, SSL/CTL international sales manager, JCB.
What type of equipment should a contractor use for snow removal?
The key is utilization, being able to take their machine investment and utilize it year round if possible. But often, the most important thing is time. The more snow they can move faster and safer, the more money in their pockets. In some cases, a contractor may choose to use a wheel loader or other large machine or a pickup with a blade on the front. However, when it comes to landscape contractors, most of them do already have skid steers and compact track loaders, so using this equipment for snow removal will improve their bottom line by helping them get more out of their machine investment.
Which is better for snow removal, a skid steer or a compact track loader?
Both can be used for snow removal; however, in most cases, a skid steer is preferable. CTLs give you reduced ground bearing pressure, which is great for landscapers who may have to drive their machines across grassy areas that the customers want to leave intact. But, when you’re moving snow, you will obviously have to operate the machine on slippery surfaces, and the increased ground bearing pressure of a skid steer will handle that better. It won’t slip as easily. A tracked machine would work fine in many situations, but if in fact, if you’re traveling on an incline and you don’t have the weight on the ground, you could slide around quite easily in a CTL.
How does a landscape contractor pick a machine that’s ideal for snow removal but is also suited for the other types of tasks they need to accomplish throughout the year?
One thing that would influence a contractor is fuel consumption. If they’re using the machine for snow removal, they’ll want to sign up lots of projects/customers — parking lots, driveways — areas where they can move snow and move it quickly so they can get to the next project. They may be out six to eight hours moving snow, and that would result in a lot of hours on the machine. The amount of fuel they use in this situation becomes significant. That’s why we’ve updated our skid steers with our JCB Ecomax engine. Prior to the engine change, our machines had Dieselmax engines that offered 16 percent better fuel consumption than competitive machines. Now, with the Ecomax engines, that number has increased by up to an additional 9 percent. Over time, you can see how the numbers would add up — putting more money into a contractor’s pocket.
What type of attachments would a contractor want to purchase for snow removal using a skid steer, and why?
There are many types of attachments used in snow removal, such as snow blades, snow pushes, snow buckets and of course, snow blowers. One of the best overall values popular throughout the world is snow blades. They are not very expensive and have a spring mounted safety mechanism that raises the blade in the event a manhole cover or some other obstruction is encountered. Snow pushers, also a very popular snow removal attachment, also can be equipped with this feature.
Other contractors choose to use snow buckets, but either way, it depends on the cost and what’s best for that particular end user. A snow bucket would be more useful if you have to load up the snow you’ve removed into the back of a large truck and haul it away. And of course, you have some people who prefer snow blower attachments. With those, you can simply shoot the snow away from the area you’re clearing rather than pile it up or haul it off.
Is a vertical lift or radial lift skid steer better when removing snow?
That depends if you need to lift it up and haul it away. Radial lift gives you better digging force, but for snow removal, you don’t need to dig. If you’re not dumping snow into a high-sided truck, it doesn’t matter what type of lift profile your machine has. From what I’ve seen, most landscape contractors usually have vertical lift machines because they tend to dump excavated material into trucks during their normal outdoor working season. Vertical lift machines will work just fine for snow removal.
What are some skid steer options that a landscape contractor would want to have if he’s going to use his machine for snow removal?
The two most obvious are an enclosed cab and heat. A nice comfortable heated air suspension seat with adjustable control pods is also preferable. Many contractors have told us that having a radio is also indispensable. If you’re moving snow for hours at a time, it can get a bit repetitive and boring. Another plus to having a radio is that it allows the contractor to stay on top of any changing weather reports. Contractors are usually removing snow late at night or early in the morning, so a radio also helps keep them awake.
Any tips for operating a skid steer when removing snow?
When moving snow, you don’t have to limit your speed. The faster you can travel, the more snow you can remove in less time. We offer machines with a two-speed option so you can increase travel speed up to 12.4 mph versus the regular 7 mph, effectively doubling your productivity. Unless you have a really heavy snow, increasing your travel speed is a good idea.
When it comes to maintenance, a great deal depends on how cold conditions really are. Arctic grade oils would be preferred for extremely cold weather, which may be the case in many Northern states and in Canada. Make certain that with everything else, you properly service your machine, including maintaining proper tire pressure, and don’t forget about your attachments. Make sure it is properly maintained and fits properly. If it’s hydraulically driven, make sure all the parts are working. There is nothing worse than putting an attachment on and it not working right — especially in inclement weather when it is desperately needed.