How to Snow Plow a Parking Lot

Sneller Snow Systems, Michigan - Box Plow

Here you will find some basic pointers on how to properly plow a parking lot.  This is not an exhaustive list, but it will give you a feel for the basics.

Pre-Season Snow Removal Preparation

The biggest factor for success in snow removal is the pre-season preparation.  Like most of life, this old adage holds true, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

  • You need to plan where you are going to put the snow.  Take these things into account.
    • Put snow where water from melting snow will easily drain off of the parking lot and not where melting/refreezing snow will create a new slip and fall danger.
    • Avoid putting the snow near the building
    • Avoid putting snow near entrances to the street – the pile will block visibility and create a hazard
    • Put snow where it will minimize taking up parking spaces.
    • Put snow where people feel like it is not in the way of visiting your building.
  • Map where you will put the snow.  Yes, we literally mean “draw a map of your property and mark where you will stick the snow”
  • Identify, map, and mark hazards
    • Anything that sticks up above the pavement is a hazard and significantly unleveled areas of the pavement (like a big bump or dip) are hazards too.
    • Anything that needs to be gingerly plowed around (like landscaping elements that don’t respond well to a plow blade or snow stacking)
    • Use plow markers to identify where hazards are hiding.
    • Use the same map that tells you where to put the snow to tell you where all these hazards are
  • Identify what service levels need to be provided at what times of the day.
    • Some places need to have a perfectly clear lot and walkways during business hours but it may not need any work during certain hours of the night.
    • Do you have a “zero tolerance” property where during business hours you can’t have a spec of snow on walks or the parking lot?  Or can you wait until there is two or more inches before the plow comes out.  Can you just salt the lot when there is less than two inches?
    • Think about how clean you need to keep your property to always ensure safety without unnecessarily driving up your costs.
  • Will you use regular rock salt on your property, something that will melt snow and ice at very low temperatures, or will you use a product that is gentler on the concrete and landscaping?
    • Order salt or ice melt BEFORE the season begins.  You may have a hard time getting what you need at the price you want if it is a harsh winter and supplies are getting low.

Prepare Your Plow and Vehicle Before the Season Begins

  • Ensure any necessary maintenance is done to your vehicle and snow plow.
  • Double check the health of your truck battery.  A battery that is performing at 80% of capacity may start your vehicle easily, but it may not hold up to hours of plowing because the hydraulics on snow plows tax your vehicle’s electrical system.
  • Know how to use your plow!  This fact should go without saying, but too many people think, “It is snow plowing, how hard can it be?”  Read the user manual of your snow plow at least once to understand how to properly use your specific snow plow.
  • Install your salt spreader and ensure it is in good working order.

Pre-Storm Snow Removal Work

  • Double Check your equipment is working properly.  Always check for leaks and damage to hydraulic hoses 24 hours before a winter storm.
  • Pre-treat walks and parking areas when appropriate.  A pre-treated surface will make snow removal easier.  If there is freezing rain coming, proper pre-treatment can help ensure the walks remain safe through the storm.
  • Fill your salt spreader.
  • Get adequate sleep.  People who are tired work slower and are more likely to have an accident.

Plowing Your Lot

  • Remove snow from walks and next to the building first.  Those are obviously the most likely spots for slips and falls, but also you can push the snow to the lot and move it easily to where you will pile the snow.
  • Ensure Handicap parking places and walks get high priority because some handicap people require a cleaner path to your building than the average person in order to cover the distance safely.  This practice of prioritizing handicap pathways will also ensure ADA compliance.
  • Start from nearest the building and work your way to the outer edges of the lot.
  • Try to always move the snow in one push (in other words, don’t make a pile in the middle of the lot that you plan to move later)
  • Plan on plowing when your lot is at its emptiest.
  • Use extra caution and go slow when plowing next to curbs, vehicles, and other obstacles.  The weight of the snow in front of the blade can cause a vehicle to move a bit to the side and if you are going too fast, you will bump something.
  • Keep drains and catch basins clear to receive water from the melting snow.
  • With heavy snow storms, plan on multiple plowings.  Your plow can only move so much snow and waiting until the snow stops may not save you any work, especially with heavy snows.
  • Plow in straight lines for greater efficiency.
  • As you are coming up to the snow pile, slow down and start to raise the blade as you reach the pile to help with stacking (making the pile go higher) and to minimize impact on your equipment.
  • When plowing on a slippery surface, start the vehicle in motion just before dropping the blade.
  • Always pull the snow away from the building.  Pushing snow into the building can damage the building or at the very least put excessive moisture next to the building in spring.
  • Salt any slippery or potentially slippery surfaces to help ensure people do not fall.

Immediately After Plowing

  • Document the work done and take pictures showing a clean lot and walks.  This will help you avoid frivolous slip and fall lawsuits.  Store this information in a safe place for 10 years (or however long your lawyer tells you to keep it).
  • Clean your plow and look for damage.  Repair any damage right away so your plow is ready for the next storm.
  • Empty your spreader if you can.  If it is over a week between snows and a little moisture got into your salt, the salt can harden into big chunks, forcing you to break up a huge salt chunk by hand.
  • Evaluate how plowing the property went.  Take notes to make plowing go better next time.

At the End of the Snow Plowing Season

  • Document any changes you need to make in next year’s snow removal plan.
  • Thoroughly clean and prepare your plow for long term storage.  Follow the manufacturers’ directions for storing your equipment.
  • Closely inspect your equipment for damage and repair the equipment BEFORE storing it for the summer.  Repairing now ensures you don’t forget about any issues and you will beat the fall rush for repairs and new installs.
  • Store your plow where people will not see it.  “Out of sight, out of mind” creates a situation where your plow is least likely to be stolen.

Those are our top tips for plowing a lot.  We hope you enjoyed reading through them!

Top 10 Reasons Why To Love Commercial Snow Removal

Sneller Snow Systems, Michigan - Box Plow

We talked to Mike Stevens, Editor in Chief at Snow Plow News, about what he thought are the top ten reasons why to LOVE commercial snow removal.  We think he came up with a pretty good list.  Check it out!

10. You Get to Play with Big Toys!

I’m sorry, but moving snow with a Cat 950 is just plain fun!

9. You Get to Save the Day!

It is about helping people out.  Snow removal at a single location can literally protect thousands of people.  We have a noble profession right up there with firemen, police officers, and hospital staff.

8. Big Piles of Snow!

Admit it, you used to have fun making those big piles of snow when you were a kid.  Now looking back, you think those 3 foot piles are nothing compared to your 20-foot high piles 100 feet long!

7. You Get a New Obstacle Course Every Snow Fall!

While some things stay the same, vehicles and people are always moving around you.  You have to keep alert and focused to do a great job and to keep from hitting that shopper that thought it was a good idea to leap in front of you!

6. It’s Just You and Your Truck Baby!

Maybe it is a loader or a skid steer or something else, but you don’t have someone sitting next to you telling you how to do your job all day long.

5. No One Limits Your Coffee or Caffeine intake!

Whether your favorite is coffee, Mountain Dew, or something else, let the good times roll!  Your Momma is not going to be asking if you really want that next cup.

4. You are Working While Others Are Sleeping.

There is something enjoyable about getting a whole lot of work done while Average Joe needs his beauty sleep.

3. You Have Time to Think About Life

While you have to stay alert, let’s face it, when it is just you, your machine, your cup of coffee, and Mother Nature, you get to think about life…or forget about it and just sing at the top of your lungs to the music you are blaring in the cab!

2. You are Tested to the Extremes

You feel like a Real Man (or Real Woman) when you are out conquering the snow Mother Nature has dished out over the last 60 hours.  Bring It On!

1. You Never Get Pushed Around because You Do All the Pushing!

Need I say more?

Thanks for your input Stevens.  Here is to the next snow season we all love!

How a Snow Removal Company Can SAVE Property Managers Money!

Snow Removal Company Snow Removal Plan
John Allin, Snow and Ice Industry Consultant
John Allin, Snow and Ice Industry Consultant

Thinking about hiring a new commercial snow removal service? If so, there are details to keep in mind well beyond obvious factors like what it costs and a company’s reputation. We sat down with independent consultant, John Allin, who is the founder of the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA) and Snowfighters Institute. He is globally recognized as the foremost snow and ice industry consultant. John also helped form the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) and worked on the committee which wrote and published the first ever set of written standards for the snow and ice management industry. Let’s look at what John had to say about the value of hiring a professional snow removal company instead of alternative options.

Every snow contractor has a different level of preparation & planning, a different investment in equipment & maintenance, and a different approach to training & education. And by following the latest best snow removal practices, a professional contractor can actually SAVE your business money. Here’s a quick list, then read on for details:

Truly Professional Snow Contractors ultimately save property managers money by:

  • Continuously educating their team so they are both careful and efficient
  • Using less rock salt and de-icing product
  • Pre-treating surfaces with liquid anti-icing product
  • Having ISO Certified processes & systems for quick fixes to issues
  • Reducing your risk of expensive slip and fall lawsuits
  • Taking time to develop a detailed snow response plan to prevent catastrophes
  • Want more details? Keep reading!

More Focus On Education Does NOT Mean It Costs Customers More Money

“In fact, it’s quite the opposite,” John said.

Snow removal companies who invest in training, ongoing education and certified snow removal systems actual SAVE their commercial customers’ money. You may think the bigger a snow removal contractor is, or the more they spend on training, the more they cost. But this is a major misconception! It might sound a little gimmicky at first – but in the end it makes perfect sense!

Educated Snow Professionals Use Less Rock Salt

Too Much Rock Salt - Snow Ice MeltAccording to John Allin, “The snow removal industry has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. The efficient and effective use of rock salt is probably the most pronounced advancement.”

In the past, the standard rule of thinking was to use 1,000 pounds of rock salt per acre of pavement. However, through proper education and a close examination of this thinking, snow contractors have learned they only need 150-300 pounds of rock salt per acre to reduce ice to water. That’s a huge savings and boost for our eco-system! Professionally educated snow and ice management companies will save your company money by using less rock salt.

[blockquote author=”John Allin, Snow and Ice Industry Expert & Consultant” link=”” target=”_blank”]”The snow removal industry has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. The efficient and effective use of rock salt is probably the most pronounced advancement.”[/blockquote] Using less rock salt will also save you money by reducing repair costs to grass and nearby landscaping, less pavement repairs and less corrosion to metal that comes in contact with the product.

How do you know if your current snow removal company is using too much rock salt?

“If you drive around after a snowstorm and you see white pavement, that’s indicative of over application of product,” said John Allin, SIMA founder & snow industry consultant.

Professional Snow Contractors Pre-treat Surfaces with Anti-icing Product to Further Reduce Rock Salt Usage

Another way a professional snow contractor can help customers and the environment is to pre-treat surfaces before the storm with anti-icing product.

According to John Allin, most contractors only use the equivalent of 35 pounds per acre of rock salt to pre-treat surfaces (so much less than the 150-1,000 pounds per acre used by others for treatment after the storm). John says educated snow contractors have learned that just “35 pounds of rock salt per acre will keep the bond from forming between the ice and the snow and the pavement surface. Even if you drive on it or walk on it, you can keep that bond from forming so if you go over the pavement with a plow, you get a much cleaner finished surface and you need much less material afterwards to reduce ice to water.”

Deicing Truck Grand Rapids MI Lansing MIAlso applying anti-icing product in a liquid format instead of granular will keep it in place on the surface better. Granular rock salt is moved off the surface from traffic and more difficult to keep in place. When looking for a good contractor, keep in mind that one who applies liquid anti-icing product before the storm is actually saving you money, saving the environment and doing a much better job.

ISO 9001/SN 9001 Certified Snow Removal Systems Reduces Risk and Lawsuit Fees

ISO Certification is one way to tell the difference between a professional snow contractor and one that is less prepared. However, being ISO certified doesn’t make a company a better snow contractor. It means that contractor has detailed processes in place to fix what might go wrong.

If a professional snow contractor is ISO 9001/SN 9001 certified, they have a process to fix bugs in the system, a review process and a way to write a corrective action to fix what went wrong. Those systems have been audited and continue to be audited annually. “Many other companies will just hope and pray they got it right the first time,” says John Allin.

John went on to say, “Sneller is very very progressive and they want to be on the leading edge. They want to have the best. They want to provide the best service. They want their customer locations to be safe to the nth degree. So they figure out what they should use, how they should use it, and they make sure they are executing in a manner that is conducive to a safe environment. There are a lot of snow plowers out there. There are very few risk managers. And the professional snow contractor views themselves as a risk manager. Their job is to mitigate risk on sites under their control in order to keep the site safe for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. That’s the difference between Sneller and many of the alternative options.”

Professional Snow Contractors Reduce Slip and Fall Lawsuits

Michigan slip and fall lawsuits might be a bit tougher than some states for site visitors to prosecute, but it still happens. Snow contractors have to be careful to consider not only how well snow and ice is removed, but where it is piled. Snow should not be piled in areas that cause visibility issues, up against buildings where water can seep through, they shouldn’t cover up drains, pile snow in handicap spots, etc.

Hiring an ISO 9001/SN 9001 certified snow removal contractor helps protect property managers from slip and fall lawsuits because lawyers know it will be much harder to prove negligence when ISO certified systems are in place.

Snow & Ice Management Companies Invest in a Detailed Snow Response Plan

Having a detailed plan for how a snow and ice management company is going to respond to varying levels of snow is imperative. A good plan details the priorities, timeline, equipment to be used. A good example is how Sneller approaches Tanger Outlet Mall.

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A detailed plan is in place to be sure snow is removed efficiently and effectively. Obstacles and drainage are carefully considered and special equipment is used to reach small areas and for more accurate placement of salt on sidewalks.

Professional Communication Saves Time and Energy

It helps a property manager to know when a snow removal contractor has been on their property and if it’s still snowing – when they will be back. The very best contractors realize that investing in technology for communicating with clients makes their services much more valuable and helps tremendously with customer satisfaction.

For example, Sneller uses Crew Tracker software that allows property managers to login and see what’s been done and when. This saves the property manager time they might normally have to spend contacting the snow contractor asking when they were there – especially if it’s still snowing and they can’t tell.

What to Look for in a Professional Snow Removal Contract

According to industry consultant, John Allin, here are details property managers should make sure they consider when signing a snow removal contract:

  • Determine how much snow you want to tolerate on your property.
  • What’s the trigger for services to begin (ask your snow contractor what’s best for safety).
  • Make sure a time frame is included for when services will be completed.
  • Where will excess snow be piled?
  • Should excess snow be removed off site at some point? What is that trigger?
  • How far away is equipment stationed from my property?
  • What happens if equipment breaks down, is replacement equipment quickly available?
  • How will sidewalk snow be removed?
  • See certificate of insurance from insurance agent only (do not accept a faxed copy, they are too easy to forge).

Advanced Technology in Snow Removal

Professional snow contractors are also on the forefront of the newest technology that helps with efficiency and providing the best possible service to clients. For example, according to John Allin, industry leaders are advancing quickly. He says eventually we are going to able to have RFID tags on either end of the snow plow that will tell you which direction a driver was going and which way the plow was angled when it was pushing the snow. This will help with further improving processes and efficiencies for property managers.

Also, smart phone advances in technology have allowed for more accurate tracking of what crews in the field are doing. This helps property managers know if a contractor has been to their site.

There are also breadcrumbing apps that can help streamline communications and improve efficiency. This can tell contractors which roads were taken care of by their crews, how fast they were driving, what time crews arrived, how much time was spent on site, if all sections were plowed, and more. All of this equates to making revisions to lower operating costs that can help reduce snow removal costs for property managers. There is also new technology that can track how much salt was being put down and how fast the spinner was distributing salt.

When hiring a professional snow removal company with technology like this, you can rest assured that the services you signed up for are being completed. It’s very difficult to fake services when technology is in place monitoring and documenting all the details.

Looking for Grand Rapids Snow Removal or Snow and Ice Management in Lansing MI?

Please contact Sneller Snow Systems to explore all the ways that we can actually save you money and reduce your risk when our professional services are compared to guys with just a truck.

Our team will visit your site and take time to develop a detailed snow response plan based on your precise needs. We’ll clearly document a plan to keep your property clear of dangerous snow and ice depending on which areas of your property are most important to target first, where it’s best to relocate snow, how much snow you wish to tolerate, obstacles to work around, best equipment for specific needs and more. We’re careful, focused on using only the very latest technology and absolute best practices. We also value ongoing education and industry certifications so our crews are the best snow professionals around.

Let us know how we can help you today by calling 616-868-4900 or by filling out the quick form below!

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More about industry expert John Allin…

John Allin, Snow and Ice Industry ConsultantGlobally recognized as the foremost snow and ice industry consultant, John Allin has spent over 45 years developing and testing snow management strategies in one of the most intense, lake-effect, snow-belt regions in the world: the south shores of one of North America’s Great Lakes, Lake Erie. As the cold Arctic and Canadian air whips across the lake, a snowmaking machine kicks in, stretching from the shores of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and into New York, dumping 150-300″ of snow each season.  John saw this area as the perfect proving ground to bring snow and ice management into the modern age. With only one truck, and one plow, he began his entrepreneurship with Allin companies. After 20 years, he began Snow Management Group, which, in 2002, won the plowing contract for the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

John is North America’s top snow industry consultant, an innovator of snow management strategies, the industry’s leading snow management expert, and an expert witness for slip and fall lawsuits, among other titles.  

Mr. Allin’s book, Managing Snow and Ice, 1st and 2nd Editions – is considered the bible for snowplowing contractors in North America who desire to grow and better operate their snow contracting business. A CD of forms is also available to the industry. Mr. Allin also wrote a 3rd book recently titled “Snow and Ice Management, A Look Through Time.” It’s available on his website  Mr. Allin patented a commercial snow melting machine (the Snow Dragon), and shares another patent for specialized deicing equipment. 

He is the founder of the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA). Recently, he was instrumental in the formation of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA). He worked on the committee which wrote and published the first ever set of written standards for the snow and ice management industry. John is also the founder and Board Chairman of the Snowfighters Institute located in Erie, Pa. 

In February 2013, Mr. Allin became involved with CrewTracker Software, overseeing day-to-day operations. This software allows snow contractors to keep abreast of what their field crews accomplish during any given snow or ice event. Invoicing times are expedited, so that what used to take weeks can be done in minutes.

Read even more here or follow John on Facebook or LinkedIn.

You Get What You Pay For With Commercial Snow Removal Services Too!

Commercial Snow Removal Services - Sneller Snow Systems, Grand Rapids, MI

At this point, we’ve all read our fair share of online consumer reviews. On sites such as Angie’s List and Amazon, consumers can weigh in on their experiences, whether good or bad. While some responses are obvious fakes (such as the hilariously snarky reviews under Bic Cristal “For Her” pens), others highlight one of the dangers of bargain shopping: the temptation to jump at a deal that seems too good to be true.

You know the old saying: buy in haste, repent at leisure.

Don’t Fall For The Cheapest Snow Removal Services

Customers who make their decisions based solely on the lowest cost often find themselves getting what they’ve paid for — and not in a good way. Unfortunately, pinching pennies often means saying goodbye to quality customer service, meaning unsatisfied customers can be left in a lurch. We just received a call yesterday from a previous client who went with a low bid company last winter. Our client later realized the snow company wasn’t equipped to handle their facilities and they noticed a significant reduction in service. They had a bad experience, and are coming back on board with us to end the frustration.

As you evaluate your needs for professional snow and ice removal services, it’s important that you contract with a company that offers the services you need at reasonable rates with a proven track record for following through on their commitments. Fortunately, that’s just what we offer.

Here at Sneller Snow Systems, we customize services, equipment used and pricing for each clients’ specific needs. For example, when we manage snow and ice for a large outlet mall in Grand Rapids, there are massive amounts of intricate areas and walkways to keep clear so we utilize smaller equipment. We also use a salt spreader that drops ice melt instead of throwing it for precise placement. With every client, we draw up contracts that clearly outline pre-agreed pricing, and then we deliver. Every time.


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Hire Experienced Snow Removal Professionals

Over the years, we’ve built up a solid reputation for being dependable, thorough, and trustworthy. Because our clients know what they’re paying for at the outset, they never have to worry about being surprised with fees down the road; nor do they need to worry that we will accept payment without showing up and doing our job.

If you’re suddenly tempted by an advertisement offering the cheapest rates in town, be sure to research such offers carefully and ask yourself if it’s worth the risk.

If you have further questions regarding why it’s important to contract with a commercial snow and ice removal company, please feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Types of Snow Removal Services in Grand Rapids – Beyond Snow Plowing

grand rapids map - grand rapids snow removal

Business owners living in the Grand Rapids and Lansing, Michigan areas understand the importance of hiring a competent snow removal expert. However, there are many types of snow removal services in Grand Rapids in addition to snow plowing. Some of these may be hard to distinguish or may not see relevant. Let’s take a look…

Here are six services provided by only the best snow removal services in Grand Rapids:

  1. Commercial Snow Plowing Services
  2. Snow Relocation and Hauling Services
  3. Custom Ice Management and Deicing Services
  4. Sidewalk Snow Removal and Shoveling Services
  5. Michigan Weather Monitoring
  6. Proactive Client Communications

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The ideal snow removal company will have the expertise to handle any size commercial snow plowing project. The project begins with a full property analysis and discussion with the owners about their specific snow removal needs. And by offering services beyond snow plowing, you can rest assured that the company you hire can handle any snow or ice event.

Snow Relocation and Hauling Services

The perfect example of a vital snow removal service that you may not have initially considered is snow relocation. Typically Grand Rapids is on the list of 10 snowiest US cities, with an average snowfall at about 75 inches per year in Grand Rapids alone. So if you have a business in this area, you’re probably going to end up with snow piles on your property. Piles of snow can reduce visibility, take up valuable parking space, exceed weight limits on parking decks and cause all kinds of dangerous situations. The right snow removal company will have snow relocation and snow hauling equipment and the experience necessary to remove and relocate these piles of snow from your location.

Custom Ice Management and Deicing Services

It is important that a snow plowing company has the right certifications, equipment and supplies to provide safety and risk management services for ice management and deicing. Sprinkling rock salt on surfaces is not the answer to everything. Each Michigan snow and ice storm needs a different ice management approach based on the temperatures, humidity, current surface conditions and more. The best snow removal companies manage ice before, during and after the storm using custom blends of liquids and granular products as needed. Avoid companies that have a “one size fits all” mentality about ice management.

Sidewalk Snow Removal and Shoveling Services

A good snow and ice removal service knows how to keep snow off the sidewalks to protect clients, customers and employees from falling. The most concentrated volume of pedestrian traffic is held on your sidewalks and walkways. Plus how you maintain these heavily used areas makes a big impression about your concern for your business and for those who visit. That’s why the best snow removal services in Grand Rapids include back-to-back shifts of sidewalk snow removal services. Continuous snow clearing is essential on these busy surfaces!

Michigan Weather Monitoring

Business owners should not be taken by surprise when winter storms approach.  A good snow removal company will keep an eye on the weather 24/7 and be ready for action at a moment’s notice. It also helps to track weather history to better predict upcoming weather and track trends. The best snow removal contractors use a wide variety of radars, forecasts, weather apps, discussions, and graphs to monitor weather systems, pavement temperatures, and freeze/thaw cycles.

Proactive Client Communications

Excellent communications between the snow removal company and the client is what keeps things running smoothly. By providing proactive client communications and updates during winter storms, the company is able to go about its business seamlessly, and can, at any time, track the snow removal progress via online communications systems.

If you manage a business or property  in the Grand Rapids/ Lansing Michigan areas, please contact us at your earliest convenience to talk about your snow removal needs. Sneller Snow Systems is ISO 9001 certified and has what it takes to get the job done!