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The importance of your snow removal contractor using professional, reliable, modern equipment

The fleets of vehicles as well as other equipment used by snow and ice removal contractors vary as much as the contractors themselves. When interviewing a prospective contractor, a thorough understanding of the contractor's service vehicles and other current equipment should be known. Some snow removal companies have large, modern fleets equipped with state of the art snow plows, and perhaps just as importantly, backup vehicles to cover unexpected mechanical breakdowns. On the other hand, some contractors plow snow with their own personal vehicles and will instead utilize inexpensive and inefficient plastic snow plows.

It would be wrong to assume that each contractor has the equipment available to maintain your property correctly. Commercial snow removal equipment is very expensive, and smaller contractors must cut corners in this area in order to stay in business, thus putting their clients at risk. Because of the extremely heavy loads and high demands placed on commercial snow removal equipment, breakdowns are inevitable even amongst the most modern fleets. Besides breakdowns, it is very common for snow plow repair shops and part distribution centres to be back-ordered two to four weeks during the winter season, so if there is no backup option, fixing broken equipment immediately is often impossible. A snow removal contractor must possess not only a fleet of regularly scheduled service vehicles, but a fleet of equally high-quality backup vehicles as well.

Imagine the chaos, property or personal damage, and risk of loss that would ensue if the contractor's equipment was broken, and they were unable to perform their services for you as promised because of a breakdown.

Unfortunately, most snow removal contractors cannot afford to maintain a backup fleet. Imagine the chaos, property or personal damage, and risk of loss that would ensue if the contractor's equipment was broken, and they were unable to perform their services for you as promised because of a breakdown. During the unusually heavy slush storms of the 2012-2013 winter, many clients who trusted a small contractor for their snow service were left with properties full of snow due to the high number of breakdowns resulting from this heavy weather. It is therefore an absolute necessity for your chosen contractor to have an abundance of spare equipment to provide seamless service to your property during all possible conditions.

For some property owners, it can further complicate the decision of which contractor to hire by the wide range of prices to which they can quote the cost of servicing your property. In another article we've already discussed the importance of a flat-rate contract to protect against unforeseen costs, but one factor that's not often considered by the property owner is in what manner the contractor will complete the scope of the work and what equipment is available for him to do so. An especially important consideration for mid-sized property owners is that sometimes up to five extra pieces of equipment, other than simply a plow truck, are needed to complete the work properly. Specialized equipment such as small Bobcat loaders, industrial AWD loaders, salt spreaders, haulage crews or dump trucks, snow-melters, tractors, and Kubota utility vehicles are extremely expensive, and are often beyond the financial reach of small snow and ice removal contractors.

Consider the Following Case Study:

You are shopping for a new snow and ice contractor for your mid-size, but extremely busy, retail plaza. Company “A” quotes you for a seasonal price of $7,500.00, a very attractive cost for the scope of your property, and you know that Company “A” also plows a couple of driveways down the street to satisfactory results. On the first snow fall of the season, a single pickup truck with a single driver-operator arrives at your property at 5:00AM. When it arrives, the plow truck is in good condition and a quality unit, however it has a difficult time plowing the intricate areas of your property and in turn you begin to lose unnecessary parking spaces to awkward snow piles the very first time it snows. The walkways and pathways that cover the retail stores on your property take the driver-operator three hours to clear by hand. Naturally a person would become exhausted in attempting to perform this task alone, and the work will most likely reflect this. By 8:00AM, Company “A” has still not completed all of the work, and some areas are still partially obstructed by snow and pose a slip and fall risk. While Company “A” had the best intentions of providing quality service, their lack of specialized equipment and lack of available labour prevented them from clearing the property in a timely and efficient manner. Company “A”’s methods of performing the service also cost you the unnecessary use of parking spaces to snow, which in turn lowers the capacity of the plaza to operate as an efficient retail outlet.

Company “B” however is a large scale snow operation, with a long list of high-profile, satisfied customers. This company has a strong web and media presence, and their name comes up often while researching snow and ice removal contractors in the area. On the first snowfall, Company “B” sends a crew of four servicemen as well as a plow truck, Jeep or Bobcat. The plow truck completes the open areas of the parking lot quickly and efficiently. A shovelling and deicing crew of two working with the Bobcat start on the pathways and intricate areas of the parking lot that took Company “A” a long time to complete. Company “B”'s specialized equipment is able to make smaller, less intrusive snow banks, lowering the impact to available parking spaces. Also, the additional specialized equipment and labour that Company “B” uses to service the property has greatly improved accessibility, safety, and access to the property. Company “B”'s crew was ultimately able to complete the same job in only thirty minutes, and therefore had ample time to clear the property before the start of the business day when people start arriving, and when the risk for injury is at its highest. Ultimately, while Company “B” quotes a flat-rate price that is 35% higher than Company “A”, the added safety and accessibility, as well as the timeliness and efficiency of Company “B”'s additional equipment and services far outweigh the additional cost.

Tip: Make sure the snow contractor you hire has a diversified fleet of equipment, which is specifically appropriate for your type of property. The equipment used to clear a residential driveway should never be the same as the equipment used to clear a commercial parking lot, and vice-versa.

Tip: It is a must that your contractor maintains a fully-equipped fleet of not only regular service trucks, but also at least one backup unit per every three to four active units.

Written by George Armstrong, General Manager, Monster Plowing Company

Having started his career with Monster in the early days of the organization, George has been instrumental in helping make Monster Plowing Company what it is today. George brings with him intense enthusiasm for his work. Snow maintenance isn't just a job, its a passion, and his input, innovative thinking, and creative problem solving have proven invaluable to the success of our team. From sales to equipment maintenance, service delivery to quality control, George ensures that every day is a smooth one. In 2015, George's dedication culminated in being named a 2015 All-Star of Snow and Ice by the international Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA).
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