The Cost of Snow Plowing

wild car tracks in snow covered parking lot

Many commercial property owners new to collecting bids for commercial snow plowing are a little shocked at the cost.  “How hard can it be to plow my own lot?” they asked themselves.  While certainly most people can learn how to safely remove snow, there are a lot of costs that go into snow and ice removal that are not always accounted for.  Let’s go through just some of the costs that go into snow plowing.

The Cost of Snow Plowing Equipment

The most obvious expense is going to be a snow plow.  With a bottom end plow or a decent used plow coming in around $3,000 and new, contractor grade plows costing up to $6,000 after you throw in installation, the plow isn’t cheap.

Do you think your plow is going to last you 10 years?  Unless you only plow one or two driveways or a small parking lot, think again.  The nature of plowing means snow plows get beat up…a lot.  Many professional contractors are replacing their plows every 3 years, and if there are light winters or they are extra ginger in how they plow, maybe another one or two winters can be squeezed out of them.

What gives a plow a short life span is, as the plow is being pushed along the ground, you hit hidden objects…lots of hidden objects.  The trip springs will lighten (again lighten, not eliminate) the impact, but there are times you will accidentally knock the edge of the blade or you will hit a really big object under the snow.  The snow plow takes continual pounding which is hard on the hydraulics and the frame of the plow.  After a while, you WILL need to repair or replace the plow, so be ready.

It is not just your plow that takes a beating.  The transmission on your vehicle feels all of those jolts as well.  If you have a one-ton truck or smaller that you intend to plow with, plan on replacing your transmission or your vehicle every few years.  On the low end, that is another $3500 for the transmission or on the high end you could spend $50,000+ on that new pickup of yours (love those leather heated seats).

The Cost of Snow Plowing Documentation?

A professional commercial snow removal company will document all the work they do with date and time stamps plus the best companies taking before and after pictures.  That documentation will be retained for up to a decade.  Were you planning on documenting all of your work?  You wonder why someone would even bother.

The reason to document your work is to ward of frivolous lawsuits.  Someone could bring a slip and fall suit against you literally years after they supposedly fell on your property after a snow storm.  If you did not properly document the work you did, be ready to pay an average of over $15,000 per lawsuit.

The Cost of Insurance

One of the benefits of hiring a snow removal company is transferring some (not all) of the risk to the snow removal company.  The company is now responsible for keeping your property safe and it is also the snow removal company’s responsibility if there is any damage done to your property.  That is why one of the largest expenses for a snow removal company is their insurance.  It is not uncommon for a landscaper who plows snow to find their insurance bill for the 3-4 months snow season higher than the insurance for the 8-9 months of landscaping.

If you are plowing snow on your own, you are now accepting the liability for everything.  You may find that affects your insurance bill or at the very least your out-of-pocket expenses when you have to make property repairs after the snow season.

Spreading Salt

You can’t plow ice up from an ice storm.  You also need to plan on spreading salt or a salt mix.  If you just get a tailgate spreader, you are only out a few hundred dollars, but the cost of salt adds up.  Rock salt, the cheapest material to spread, will quickly add up to well over $1,000/year for a small parking lot in an average winter when you buy it by the pallet (more if you buy it bag by bag at the local store).

Hidden Costs

Who is going to plow for you?  Oh, you will save money by plowing yourself?  Yet your time is still worth something, because you could have been doing something else to either make or save money.  That time is lost.  Even if you plow at night and go in for a full work day, you will be far less efficient and less effective because your mind does not function as well when you do not get a full night sleep.

Other costs are going to include fuel (plowing is not a fuel-efficient activity), replacing your tires more often, and replacing your truck battery every 2-3 years (plowing is hard on your truck’s electrical system too).

Then there are the little costs that add up.  Most plow guys will have the constant flow of caffeinated beverages to keep them awake during the wee hours of the morning.  You will also want to spend a few dollars on extra warm clothes for when you are out of the truck shoveling.

On top of all the dollars that are going out, you also have to remember you have to remain available to remove snow from October through March and every once in a while, in April or May too!  That means no overnight trips can be planned, important meetings need to be rescheduled when a storm rolls through, and make sure you don’t get sick or injured, because you will still need to be out there removing the snow no matter what happens.

The Question Becomes “How can the Pro. Snow Plow Guys do it so Inexpensively?”

Yes, we are biased in saying we think hiring a professional snow plow company (we prefer professional snow and ice management company) stretches your money just as far as plowing on your own.  There are some things that help us keep it economical on our end.

We can spread out the equipment costs over many properties instead of just one or two.  With as many properties as we plow, the equipment cost per property drops way down.

We can also use different equipment.  Using skid steers, loaders, and dump trucks is way more economical for snow removal than a pickup truck because we can move more snow both safer and faster.

We have economies of scale.  When you are buying multiple pieces of equipment every year, the dealers give you…well, a good deal!  We get our salt in bulk truckloads instead of pallet loads which means we get better pricing on our salt as well.

Finally, our crew members are well trained and well-practiced in snow removal, so they can do the work at top speeds while maintaining the highest levels of safety.  Our crews have dedicated software for documenting work done while we are on your site, so it takes almost no extra time to carefully record what work was done as we are working.

The added benefit of using a professional commercial snow removal company is you never have to lose any beauty sleep to ensure your property is safe for vehicles and pedestrians.

Those are the big costs, though I am sure we missed some items.  If you are still thinking of snow plowing on your own, good luck and be safe!  If you are in the Grand Rapids or Lansing areas, feel free to give us a call about a free assessment of what it will take to keep your clients and team members safe from winter storms.

Lansing Parking Lot Snow Removal

Commercial Snow Plowing Services-Sidewalks

Are you in need of snow removal for your Lansing area parking lot and walks?  Make sure you use a dedicated commercial snow removal companies rather than the jack-of-all-trades average snow removal service, Here are some reasons of why we at Sneller are a great fit for your Lansing area parking lot snow removal.

ISO 9001/SN9000 Certification and Documentation

If you are familiar with ISO 9000, you already know ISO is a great quality management system companies setup to ensure quality and continuous improvement which requires third-party verification that the company adheres to their quality management system as well as has a system for continuous improvement.

What does ISO certification mean for you and your Lansing snow removal?  We have documented best practices, a third-party audits our systems annually, and we are constantly looking for better ways to improve our quality allowing you to be assured we will deliver on our promise of high quality consistently throughout the winter season.  We have a habit of keeping our commitments and you will find that true for you as well.

The SN9000 standard is a subset of the ISO 9000 system for Snow and Ice Management providers.  The SN9000 stipulates we will have tracking and documentation in place to ensure your property is clean and records are kept detailing what we did during each winter event.

The SN9000 standard means you can be certain your property is cleaned correctly every time, and we have kept the “paperwork” (in our case digital records) showing what work was done to protect you from frivolous and unnecessary slip-and-fall lawsuits.  In the US, slip-and-fall lawsuits average over $15,000 in settlements, so the less exposure you have to slip-and-fall lawsuit, the less you have to worry about!

Action Plans For Your Parking Lot

We work with you in planning how to clean your parking lot and walkways, from what levels of service you need at particular times of the day to where to put the snow that fell on your lot.  The planning we do with you before winter is one of the most important parts of keeping a clean property because without a solid plan, you leave it to accident that the parking lot and walks will be cleaned to your expectations.  We will ensure you not only meet Lansing laws for snow removal, but your clients and employees are safe.

The snow removal plans are about more than where to dump the snow.  We make sure EVERYTHING you find important is documented, whether that is delicate foliage, obstacles the snow might hide, or anything else we need to exercise caution around while clearing snow.

Spring Clean-Up

Snow removal is not without some risks and there may be a few things out of place by the time spring comes around.  No matter who removes your snow, if there is a 12” snow fall, things are going to accidentally get bumped, especially stuff hiding under the snow like parking blocks.  Most likely, you are going to want us to come through in spring to get everything back in order.  Sometimes commercial property owners find if their snow removal team is not their landscaping team, the snow removal company has a hard time coming back in spring to straighten things out because you are on the bottom of the list. Do you really need to wait until June to get your parking blocks moved back to where they belong?

We are known among our clients as a company who follows through on our commitments, a company you can really trust.

You Know What You Are Going to Get

Even before the snow flies, we ensure you understand what you the proposal and your contract.  We go over in plain language what you will and will not get as part of your snow removal services in the process of creating your custom snow removal plan for parking lots, walks, and anything else you need cleared.

There won’t be a “gotcha” in the contract because we would like to be your snow removal service for decades, and with our long-term view in mind we will strive to make you delighted with our services from our first introduction, through all of the following springs when you look back, know people were safe on your property during the winter, and your property looks great going into the landscaping season.

Never Hurts to Get a Quote

It is hard to get to know a company based on a website alone.  After decades of providing snow removal in Lansing, we know a commercial snow removal relationship takes time and many steps.  Your first step is calling us today so we can show you what kind of company we are.  There is a reason we win a lot of commercial jobs…simply put, our clients find us to be a great solution for their snow removal needs.  We look forward to hearing from you today.  616-868-4900

 

Grand Rapids Parking Lot Snow Removal

Are you in need of snow removal for your Grand Rapids area parking lot and walkways?  There is a difference between dedicated commercial snow removal companies and the average snow removal service, so be sure to make a wise choice.  Here are some highlights of why Sneller is a great fit for your parking lot snow removal in Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas.

ISO 9001/SN9000 Certification and Documentation

If you are not familiar with ISO 9000, ISO is a quality management system companies setup to ensure quality and continuous improvement along with third-party verification that the company is doing what they say they will do in regards to quality and systems.

What does this mean for you and your parking lot?  Not only do we have documented best practices, a third-party has audited our systems so you can be assured our quality is more than just an empty promise.  We really do what we say we will do.

The SN9000 standard is a subset of the ISO 9000 system for Snow and Ice Management providers.  The SN9000 stipulates we will have the tracking and documentation in place to properly clean your property.  What the SN9000 standard means is you be assured your property will be cleaned correctly every time, and we also document the work done to protect you from frivolous slip-and-fall lawsuits.  With slip-and-fall lawsuits averaging in over $15,000 settlements, the less exposure you have to slip-and-fall lawsuits mean less cost for you!

Documented Action Plans

We work with you to plan how we will clean your parking lot, from what levels of service you need at particular times of the day to where to put the snow that fell on your lot.  The pre-planning we do with you is one of the most important aspects of having a clean lot because without a solid plan, you leave it to chance that the lot will be cleaned to your expectations.

The plans and marking of your property are about much more than where to push the snow.  We make sure EVERYTHING you feel is important is documented, whether that is delicate foliage, obstacles the snow might hide, or anything else we need to be extra careful around while clearing snow.

Spring Clean-Up

Snow removal is not always an easy task.  No matter who removes your snow, if there is a 12” snow fall, something will eventually happen that will later need to get fixed, something like a few of your parking blocks might get bumped out of place.  One of the common problems commercial properties have is if their snow removal team is not their landscaper, come spring you end up on the bottom of the list to get your issues resolved.  Do you really need to wait until July to get your parking blocks repositioned?

We have built our reputation as a company who follows through on our commitments, so if we told you we will do something, we are going to do it.

You Know What You Are Going to Get

Even before the snow flies, we ensure you understand what you will and will not get as part of your snow removal services in the process of creating your custom snow removal plan for your parking lot and walkways.  Have you ever been burned with a “gotcha” in the contract?  We know that ensuring you clearly understand everything in a proposal and a contract ahead of time will keep everyone on the same page, and therefore, there is less likely to be any future disagreements.  We would like to be your snow removal service for decades, and with our long-term view in mind we will strive to make you delighted with our services from our first introduction, through all of the following springs when you look back, know people were safe on your property during the winter, and your property looks great going into the landscaping season.

Never Hurts to Get a Quote

It is hard to get to know a company based on a website alone.  After decades of providing snow removal in Grand Rapids, we know a commercial snow removal relationship takes time and many steps.  Your first step is calling us today so we can show you what kind of company we are.  There is a reason we win a lot of commercial jobs…simply put, our clients find us to be a great solution for their snow removal needs.  We look forward to hearing from you today. 616-868-4900

 

Reasons Why Snow Contractors Should Get a Snow Plow Prep Package for Their Smaller Trucks

Currently Ford and GMC offer snow plow prep packages for their pickups and you can pick one up for the Nissan Titan beginning with the 2018 model year.  There are good reasons to opt-in for the snow plow prep package for trucks that have one available.

What is a Snow Plow Prep Package?

A Snow Plow Prep Package is a package offered by Ford and GMC to make your truck better capable for handling the strain of running a snow plow.  You will generally find snow plow prep packages for vehicles in the ¾ to 1 ton range with Ford also offering it on their F-150.

Snow plow prep packages are relatively inexpensive.  When Ford introduced their F-150 plow prep package in 2015 it was only a $50 upgrade and still today the plow prep package for the F-150 and F-250 can be had for less than $100.  GMC is on the pricier end with a package on the 2500 setting you back just under $400 (it is less on the 3500).

So what are the reasons to have a Snow Plow Prep Package?

Reason 1: Without a Snow Plow Prep Package, You Could Void the Warranty.

In the fine print of every warranty there is wording that allows the manufacturer of your truck to void the warranty for any unapproved modification on the truck.  A snow plow on a truck that does not have a snow plow package could be used as an excuse to void the warranty.

How bad can it be?  Bad enough that some snow plow installers refuse to put plows on trucks that do not come from the factory with a snow plow prep package.  I know, I used to live a couple of miles from one.

To be fair, most truck dealers want to work with you and they will try to put as much work through warranty as they reasonably can, but if your truck seems to lack electrical power while plowing or your front springs fail early, you could be out a lot of money in repairs to save a few dollars by avoiding the snow plow prep package.  It is just not worth it.

Reason 2: A More Robust Alternator Helps with Electrical Demands While Plowing

Hydraulics take a lot of energy to run…I mean a lot.  When we look at the alternators on trucks 1 ton and smaller, many of them can’t keep up with 10 hours of continuous snow plowing especially if you are running an electric spreader.

Every once in a while, someone will bring a plow into the shop saying, “my plow won’t go up like it should,” and then the mechanic finds it works fine.  What happens is that the battery charges while the operator is driving down the road and then by the time the mechanic sees the plow, everything is working just fine.  The operator goes back out and has problems again not realizing the truck is just not keeping up with the electricity needs of the equipment.

Almost every snow plow prep package will mean a beefier alternator in your truck.  The alternator will pump more electricity into your battery so that you can go for hours without taking a break.

Reason 3: Most Trucks Are Not Designed for Hundreds of Extra Pounds Hanging in Front of Your Bumper

Even a small plow weighs hundreds of pounds and you can easily find plows that weigh over 1000 pounds for a pickup even before you get any snow on the plow.  Unlike throwing 1000 pounds in the bed of your truck, the weight of the plow puts almost all of its strain on the front of the truck and will even give you less traction on your rear wheels if you do not add ballast (extra weight in the back to balance the extra weight in the front).

The snow plow prep packages are meant to strengthen that front end, in particular the springs, so you don’t damage your truck.  Just driving around with a snow plow on a bumpy road without doing any plowing can be hard on the front end of a pickup not designed for that kind of weight hanging off the front, so be very sure to follow the manufacturer recommendations regarding the size of plow, the minimum amount of ballast, and the GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) limitations.

Reason 4: Some Prep Packages Add Extra Protection

The GMC package comes with a guard to protect your transfer case as well as electrical for a strobe light on top of your truck.  These keep your vehicle safer and make it easier to install safety lights so everyone can see you.

In the end, you won’t lose with a Snow Plow Prep Package.  For the few extra dollars you spend on the package you will get the better alternator and a front end better equipped to handle extra weight, so if you are getting a Ford or a GMC, definitely consider the prep package as a worthwhile option.

 

What Storks Can Teach You About Commercial Grade Contractor Snow Removal Equipment

Sneller Snow Systems, Snow Plow: Lansing & Grand Rapids, MI

We talked to Gene Stork and Jeen Stork of Stork Plows, a plow dealer in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about what to look for when you need a contractor grade plow for plowing commercial sites.  Gene and Theresa Stork started Storks Plows over 30 years ago and now their son Jeen is part of the team.

 

The Storks started managing a repair shop and providing snow removal service at the same time.  When it became apparent they couldn’t keep up with both, they decided to support snow removal contractors along with maintaining their repair shop.  They grew into one of the largest snow removal equipment installers in Pennsylvania.

What Should a Contractor Look for in a Plow Worthy of Commercial Snow Removal?

 

We asked Stork what are some of the things contractors should look for in a plow.  “It depends,” were the first words out of Stork’s mouth.  Is it mostly large parking lots or a lot of driveways?  Will there be a lot of sidewalks and can you push the snow off the sidewalk onto the grass or does it need to be hauled away?  “I ask guys to bring in pictures of some of the properties they work to get them the right equipment.”

 

Then Stork shared, “In general, you want a heavy truck with a heavy-duty plow.”    If your truck model has the option for a snow plow prep package, definitely get the snow plow prep package.  What is included in the package will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, yet almost all of the packages will include stronger springs in front and a bigger alternator to keep up with higher electrical demand of snow plows and salt spreaders.  Most packages will also include a transmission cooler to help to get rid of the extra heat that builds up in a transmission while plowing.

 

As for the plow itself, upgrading to a heavy-duty contractor plow is a no-brainer.  You will find up to 100 pounds of more steal on the plow due to the thicker steal used and extra supports designed to take a beating.  There may be more springs or shocks too and it is usually only a few hundred dollars more to move up to the heavier duty plow, a small percentage of the total cost of an installed plow.

 

“All the big brands offer a heavy-heavy duty plow line,” says Stork, and for the most part, they all will stand up to the normal use you see with most employees.

 

When it comes to skid steers, wing plows are becoming more popular.  The wing plows mounted on a skid steer works great as a universal tool clearing driveways and sidewalks fast yet still effective at clearing open spaces.

 

What About Salt Spreaders for Commercial Contractors?

Stork points out there are a few things to consider with salt spreaders.  The first is, how far away salt is stored from where you spread the salt will dictate how big of a spreader you need.  If your salt pile is 10 miles from where you will spread the salt, you will want the biggest spreader your truck’s weight limit will allow, while if your salt pile is on site, you can get away with a smaller unit.

 

Salt spreaders are also notorious for rusting due to the corrosive nature of salt.  While you want to minimize what can rust on a spreader, stainless steel models have been seeing a comeback since many manufacturers now offer electric models.

 

Stork explains what really makes a difference in keeping the rust away is how well you clean the spreader at the end of the season.  Small amounts of salt sitting in the spreader during spring, summer, and then fall destroys the metal.  When you get a spreader, find one that is easy to clean all the salt and / or sand out, then store the spreader out of the elements to give more years of life to your equipment.

 

Looking for a spreader that has one control that integrates with all your accessories is also a bonus.  Stork pointed out newer controls like with the Fleet Flex electrical systems do a great job allowing all the accessories to integrate with a single harness making installs and use a lot easier than in the past.

Sneller Snow Systems, Salt Loading

Other Advice for Commercial Contractors?

Stork volunteered, “Over the years I have heard a lot of horror stories.”  So, Stork recommends taking pictures…a lot of pictures.  Before the winter season begins, take pictures of damage to the property and walk the owner of the property around so they can see the damage themselves helping you to avoid blame at the end of the snow season.

 

You should also take pictures of the property in good weather when there is no snow in order to show your employees where to put snow and where all the hazards are to be found.  Take time to walk your employees over every property they may clear so everyone is aware of the hazards and on the same page of what needs to be done.

 

When the snow season is over, take pictures again.  Quickly own up to any damage your team may have caused, but more importantly the end of the year pictures also ensures if there is damage to the property after the last snow, no one can start pointing fingers your way.

 

We asked Stork if being a Christian, family run business made a difference.  Stork replied, “Honestly, we try not to make a big deal of it.  I am always going to tell everyone the truth is one thing they can always expect though.”  Stork admitted not being perfect, but being a Christian also means he focuses on people, “so providing great customer service is important to me, because I want to treat people right.”  It does not matter who you are, Stork wants everyone to feel welcome at his shop.

 

Thanks Gene and Jeen for your insights!