There are many important factors to consider when picking the right snow contractor for your property, and some of them may not be as obvious as one would think. It's important to remember that even though your meeting with a prospective contractor may leave you with a good personal impression, they will only be as good, in the end, as their service contract.
There are many different ways that a snow and ice contracting business is run. Such businesses vary from dedicated companies who have dozens of employees, a large fleet of vehicles, comprehensive insurance for all parties involved, and have a broad knowledge base of both the legal and logistical side of snow and ice removal, while, on the other end of this spectrum, and the most common type of snow contractor, is the small, general contractor who happens to plow snow in the winter. This small, individual contractor usually focuses on a wide variety of tasks to generate income. These contractors often employ the use of their own personal vehicles, modified for snow plowing usage. The ideal snow and ice contractor has no jobs or tasks to perform other than monitoring the weather, and keeping his contracted properties safe at all times. Snow and ice clearing is such an essential service that an individual simply cannot be focused on completing other tasks during the winter season.
A tactic used by many unscrupulous contractors is to offer a seemingly very attractive price up front, while ultimately leaving the door open for extra charges to be accumulated in the future.
A commercial snow and ice removal contract needs to be a multiple page, legally binding document defining all aspects of the scope of work. It also needs to outline how the contractor deals with weather events, such as how often the contractor visits the property. A small, independent contractor may answer that question with a confident smile: "I have been clearing snow for 22 years and I know exactly when a business like yours needs to be done". While this may be a confidence building statement from the contractor, what does this actually mean for your business? On the other hand, a good contract from a large snow removal company will outline clearing and plainly describe the exact service details, using tangible measures, as to when the work will commence in relation to the snowfall. For example, Monster Plowing Company’s Priority Package service contract states, very specifically: “For Snowfalls which are forecasted to end during the overnight hours of 5:00 PM to 4:59 AM, the Contractor shall commence the Work once within 3 hours of the Snowfall ending or prior to 5:59 AM of the same day, and should the same Snowfall continue to accumulate to 3.5 centimetres or more after the Contractor’s initial visit, return to commence the Work once again prior to 5:59 AM of the following day.” A small contractor will not be able to provide such tangible guarantees of service.
Another key point to investigate when shopping for the right contractor is their level of insurance coverage. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting consumer, adequate levels of proper insurance and WSIB coverage are often above the smaller contractor’s financial reach, or general understanding of necessity. The cost for the contractor to maintain a high and necessary level of insurance has skyrocketed in recent years. Many smaller companies face the dilemma of not carrying an adequate amount of insurance, and may therefore choose to work without being fully covered. $1,000,000 or $2,000,000 of general contractor's coverage is not a sufficient amount in the case of a claim or incident. Your contractor should carry the maximum amount of coverage, which is no less than $5,000,000 of insurance, and have a specific “Snow Removal” rider allowing them to perform such services. Also, your prospective contractor should be able to provide you with a recent WSIB clearance certificate. Failure to do so could indicate that the contractor plans on using under the table, non-insured labour as a means of cost cutting.
As with any product or service, pricing will vary greatly. A tactic used by many unscrupulous contractors is to offer a seemingly very attractive price up front, while ultimately leaving the door open for extra charges to be accumulated in the future. The way these contracts are written can be very skillful in the sense that once you sign it, you're ultimately at the contractor's mercy for any additional services and extra charges as he sees fit. The best way to protect yourself against an open ended contract is to sign an all-inclusive, flat-rate package which guarantees unlimited service no matter how much or how many times the snow falls. Monster Plowing Company offers excellent flat-rate packages, which include all of the products and services your property requires, without the fear of an ever growing invoice. While sometimes flat-rate pricing can appear more expensive up front, case studies have shown that it is almost always the most cost effective route.
Another overlooked aspect to consider is your accessibility to the contractor during the service season. Obviously, a contractor operating a snowplow cannot simultaneously answer their cell phone and provide customer service to his clients. If the contractor you are considering does not have a dedicated customer service person available to work with you during each and every snow event, your service will ultimately suffer. It is imperative that customers are able to reach the contractor, which is why Monster Plowing Company staffs a 24-hour dispatch office during snow events.
Finally, you should always ensure the overall quality of the contractor's fleet of snow plowing vehicles. The quality of the vehicles employed throughout the Greater Toronto Area varies greatly. Commercial grade plowing vehicles are very expensive (averaging $75,000 per new truck) and therefore, many contractors will cut corners in order to keep operating costs down. The snow plowing blade itself can range from a plastic blade to a hydraulically operated, heavy stainless steel unit with adjustable wings and other features in order to remove the maximum amount of snow possible. Most companies do not own backup vehicles to cover unexpected breakdowns of their equipment. Due to the extremely heavy working conditions that plow trucks are exposed to, breakdowns, even in the most modern of fleets, do occur. Suitable backup vehicles gassed up and ready to go at a moment's notice are the only way to keep your property safe no matter what. However, the very high cost of maintaining equipment that is used for backup purposes inhibits most companies from having reliable backup units. As unfortunate as it is for the consumer, one of the most common statements we hear in the snow and ice business is: "My contractor's truck broke. It took two weeks to fix it and I went without services".