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Choosing the right vehicle and plow

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Steve Smith, Apr 4, 2001.

  1. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    Hello all. I am managing editor of Snow Business magazine. I am working on two separate stories: 1) How to choose the right vechicle/truck for snow removal and 2) choosing the right plow for the job. Does anyone care to share their thoughts on this. What kinds of things do you consider when selecting a particular vehicle or plow? Thanks in advance for your insights.
  2. Lanelle

    Lanelle Member
    Messages: 32

    Congratulations on becoming the 3100th member of Lawnsite!Now I'll stand back and let the discussions begin!!
  3. nsmilligan

    nsmilligan PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 704

    Number 1 is experience. Which truck or plow manufactuer and dealer has served me well in the past. The one thing you can't afford when plowing is downtime.
    Number 2 is what kind of plowing are you going to do. A
    Sidekick with a Sno-bear can plow you private driveway, but if you're going to do any commercial plowing you have to think heavy duty. I think a 3/4 ton HD is manatory, and there's no subsitute for torque, be it diesel or gas. I like automatics, mainly because they have a higher reverse gear and are faster when doing lots. I like anything that improves visibility (heated mirrors, window), and power windows because if it's covered in snow I can put the right window down at the push of a button.
    I think if your doing lots a V-plow is a must, I like Fisher because of it's bottom trip & double acting cylinders, they stack higher and are a lot faster. If your doing mostly drives then 71/2 straight will work, and you should consider a back drag.
    I,m sure you will get lots of variations

  4. Alan

    Alan PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,393

    I really don't think there is a "right" vehicle that will satisfy everyone. I'm running two Chevy S-10s and a K2500. The S-10 are carrying 8' straight blades. Got plenty of opinions to the effect that I can't run an 8' blade on an S-10. But, for residential work, they are fantastic trucks, adequate power, amazingly maneuverable. When you really need to push, not much will beat the K2500 with a loaded spreader box and vee plow. So there's two ends of the same stick. Either one will work, but depending on your route, one is far superior in certian situations.

    I'm not real big on diesel power. I like the fuel economy but the weight of the diesel is just that much more on the front axle. With the weight of the plow you're already heavy up front in most applications, and you really notice it if you get into soft ground. My personal preference is small block power in a Chevrolet or GMC chassis. Lots of them out there, they seem to last good and parts are cheap.

    Plows,, go with whatever brand has SERVICE close to you. If you can't get parts quickly, or decent service when you need it, any brand is just so much junk. I run Sno-Way, not because they are any better than Fisher/Western/Boss, but because my dealer is an absolute ace.

    If I was only going to do wide open, commercial accounts I'd probably have a K3500 series with a dump body and an undertailgate spreader and a vee plow. For strictly residential my choice would be a 1500 series, short box with a straight blade.

    So much of what is "ideal" has to be based on the individual operation. Up here in Vermont we do things far differently than someone "downcountry". Way too many variables to be able to offer any really meaningful input.
  5. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    I agree with what Bill has posted - especially on the heavy duty end. That's especially important if you plan on carrying a salt/sand spreader as well as a plow.

    Alan has it right too - because things vary so much from one area to another, it's difficult to speak on the subject except in general terms. So here goes:

    In addition to spec'ing "heavy duty", keep GVW requirements in mind too. Whether or not the unit can physically handle it, getting an overweight fine because of the plow & sander on your truck can really ruin one's day!

    Something to consider with regard to the plow is what kind of dealer support is available in your area - AFTER the sale. Unless you can do all or most of your service/repairs on your own, it's important to have a dealer familiar with your brand of plow, and that you can work with. What sort of service will they provide when the snow is flying?

    I'd also like to add: Used vs new. Depending on a lot of factors such as the amount of plowing you're going to be doing, what use the truck will have in the off season, and how many $$$ you can (or are willing to) spend at once, a used truck and/or plow can be a good investment. As with any used equipment, just remember to check it all out thoroughly before you buy.

    Just some ideas, looking forward to hearing what others have to say.

    [Edited by 75 on 04-04-2001 at 05:49 PM]
  6. Deere John

    Deere John Senior Member
    Messages: 410

    The above posts are on the money, where I'm concerned. If buying a vehicle for the sole purpose of moving snow, consider your brand and service initially, and then spend some time to make sure the vehicle is equipped right for the work. Plow packages, by in large, equip a vehicle for the basics. Other options or after-market toys can improve the performance in the eye of the owner (such as the heated mirrors - a real bonus when plowing near trees that hold the snow).

    If you are buying a vehicle for many functions, one of which is plow duty, one would have to broaden the spec to account for the other uses. Also consider resale value - a comfortable cab makes it that much easier to trade or flog the poor thing where you're done with it.

    WRT plows, the job to be done determines the type of blade, the severity of your application should determine the robustness/durability you need, and your dealer support /mechanical ability should (again) point to the brand.

    Enough from me. Others will add their thoughts too.
  7. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    Answer to Question Number 1

    I am trying to standerdise things as much as possible. By 2002 and we will have 4 types of trucks with plows. F 350 pick ups, F 350 C&Cs, F 550 C&C, and F 650 or F 750s.

    Same thing with plows, all F 350s pick ups will have 8.5' Fisher V-plows, all F 350 C&Cs will have 9' Fisher streight blades, F 550s will have 9.5 ' fisher v-plows. and F 650s and F 750s will have 10' fisher plows. By having on brand of plow I have to stock less parts.

    Currently I am useing Diamond and Fisher both are good dealers and good products, However one brand is probably a better plan then two.

    With trucks we will be useing one brand and one engine trans combo. It makes maintmance and repairs easier, and once ya learn the controlls of one truck ya learn the rest. Not to mension the fleet discount you recieve with staying with on brand.

    Our plow truck specs:

    F 350 Pick up
    7.3 power stroke diesel
    auto trans
    XL with cloth seat, air, am/fm,
    Plow prep
    trailer tow

    same for For the F 350 C&C and F 550.

    Now we don't buy a truck just to plow, our trucks are set up to work year round. The only thing we do that is greared to plowing is we only use 9' bodies on our C&C trucks. Our summer work could bennefit from 12' bodies.

    The right plow for the right job

    Size of plow depends on the area being plowed
    Driveway 9' tops
    The type of plow depends on the area being plower.
    V-plows are always great in spaces with lots of in and outs.
    Location of account.

    I have one small size lot that is a square lot. We plow it with a 10' blade because the truck is right there. Yes the truck is a little oversize, but I am not going to send a truck 20 mins off it's route for a 30 min lot.

    Hope this helps

    OH year on the buying part, dealer service. Our Ford, Fisher, and Diamond dealers are NUMBER 1.


    JD PLOWER PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 751


    I have to agree with the above posts in the fact that most of the choices people make are based on individual needs. My personal choice is a ford f-350 diesel. I chose my truck because it meets all the reqirements for a plow truck and transportation. It's able to handle an 8' plow with no problem . It's also a diesel for several reasons, it's not just a plow vehicle but my daily driver, so mileage is a huge factor. Diesels are much easier to modify currently then any of the big three's gas engines. This also makes towing a trailer easier and much more economical than a gas powered truck. I chose Ford becuase that is the truck that I was brought up around, and my preference is for a monobeam front axle with leaf springs. I plow only commercial and this truck suits my needs without any problems. I don't currently need any heavy equipment in my offseason work so I sub all of my hauling and stacking out. I use a Fisher plow mostly from the fact that they are by FAR the leading distributor of snowplows in this area. I do prefer trip edge designs, and the overall durability of Fisher plows . Even though they do need some work around here on dealer service, there is no shortage on parts (usually). So all in all I think you will find it varies do to region, type of work conditions, and most importantly how fast can you turn a profit with it.
  9. Dave1250

    Dave1250 Member
    Messages: 57

    What I look for

    I have a Gmc 3/4 ton plow package towing package sle have used this truck for about 7 years for plowing . Just pick up another 1990 GMC SLE with a 7 1/2 ft. fisher looking at 2 1 tons 1 stander the other auto I like the auto best but if the price is right I`ll get both . In this area 4x4 early 1990 are going reably I am trying to keep all truck the same with plows the same . Thanks I have been reading all the post and learning alot .
  10. eggy

    eggy Member
    Messages: 71

    Well around here Southern Indiana a 1/2ton 4wd is the standard or a 3/4 2wd. I guess this would very alot on the amount of snows and pushes, here we get maybe only 2-3 pushes per, with snows of 2-5 inches, so this kind of equipment does well.
  11. Mike Nelson

    Mike Nelson Senior Member
    Messages: 637

    A perfect plow vehicle for us would be a loader with either a 16'plow or 16' to 24' pusher.

    Our theory is if you can't get a loader in,then the job is too small.:D

    We do run Ford 350's with Boss V's,but still think our Mitsubishi with the Boss V is the BEST all around plow vehicle.
  12. jaclawn

    jaclawn Member
    Messages: 92

    Because snow removal is not a year round business, (except for a select few locations), one must consider what the truck will be used for the rest of the year. A pickup truck is a versitale vahicle for snow removal, however, in the summer months, a pickup truck may not suit your needs. A 10 ton dump truck may be the most efficent truck for certian types of plowing, but if you have no other work for it, will you be able to justify it? Each person needs to look at their own individual situation, and assess what the truck will be used for YEAR ROUND, and make a desision based on that.

    I agree and also disagree with the decision to stay brand loyal. What if there is a national backorder, or strike with the one company that makes your type of plow? If you run several different types of plows or trucks, you have less of a chance of having trouble this way. I also agree that it is a good idea to stay brand loyal, for ease of maintenance, repair, and parts stocking.

    I also agree that one needs to buy what they can get parts and service for. Brand XYZ plow may be the best thing on the planet, but if I cannot get parts for it locally, or have someone locally that knows how to service it, what good is it to me?
  13. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    This is very helpful info. Thanks for your comments. In fact, I may e-mail/call some of you individually to interview for the story.

    Thanks again.
  14. cat320

    cat320 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,222

    I think that every one has good points>One you have to consider how much you will use it for just plowing or are you just gonna have one truck just for the winter months you can do this if youe are small but if your big enough you will have to consider all of your truck being used for different things all year.As far as plows if would get two different brands for the parts sinerio of one going on strike or something.My own truck is a HD 3/4 ton chevy diesel long bed reg cab with a 8' diamond blade.
  15. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266


    I have almost every spare part that Fisher and Diamond makes for my plows.

    One brand of truck:

    They can all be keyed a like, a very big plus. Almost all of my trucks use the same key.

  16. Mac

    Mac Member
    Messages: 77

    One thing that should never be left off a plow turck is the plow prep package. No matter what make it is. They add more strength to the front and give you more extra coolers. And an automatic is nice.
  17. Ducky

    Ducky Junior Member
    Messages: 2

    Everybody has their "personal" prefences for trucks and plows. Brand loyalty is living large in this subject. But a lot of this really comes down to the type of plowing being done. In the northern part of Wisc. there's a huge difference between commercial plowing accounts, and residential accounts. The commercials are usually bigger areas and concrete or black top. A 3/4 or small to med dump truck w/ a 9-1/2 to 11 foot blade is fine if you can use the truck the rest of the year. But the majority of the residential accounts are gravel driveways and almost Never straight and flat! On top of that, put it on a steep slope, trees right on either side, a bend half-way up (or down) and a grass island in the middle of the circle by the garage!! It's for this reason that we use a '87 Chevy "heavy" 1/2 ton w/ an 8'Western straight, and a '91 F150 w/ a 7-1/2' Boss V. And both are tough, year-round trucks. It all comes down to what you need to do, and where you have to do it! 'Nuf said!
  18. Bryan

    Bryan Senior Member
    Messages: 108

    choice of truck and plow

    Steve, I agree with many here on the forum. From a manufacturer stand point, truck dealers are not the ones to ask about plows, go to the truck equipment house or whoever sells plows or to a successful commercial plower. Knowing what your going to be doing with the plow is key here. IF you are swaying one way or another a heavy 3/4 or 1-ton is the best choice because it offers versatility a straight or V-blade can be put on these trucks in most applications and many mounts are interchangable now. Front axle ratings are important to the commercial plower espcially since they generally do a lot more plowing and longer runs. Your plowing environment changes, for instance in major cities a straight blade is fine for driveways, but not out in the county for driveways that may 100's of feet long and have drifts. Proper ballast in the rear of the vehicle is also important for traction and proper plowing. We as a manufacturer are finding that front frames are getting thinner and thus we have to make changes to accommodate these changes.
    As for the plow of choice, I have to agree with the guys on the forum, you have to have a dealer who is service oriented and stocks parts when you need them. The best dealers are those who at 3am will open their door to you.
    Because there are so many different brands now throughout the country, doing your homework is important. Some will like trip edge some don't. A new beginner into plowing really needs to ask questions and see who offers the most for their money. Today, with the internet, finding specs has never been easier, the customer should never be afraid to call the manufacturer and ask questions about warranty ratios or maintenance. We find many never open the owner's manual, for that reason, we are now schooling dealers to better inform those customers. Let's face it, plows and trucks are not getting cheaper so it pays to do some well spent time shopping the market.