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Meteorology and Snow Plowing?

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by Forecaster, Jan 3, 2014.

  1. Forecaster

    Forecaster Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    Well judging by my username, and the title of the post you were perhaps already able to deduce what I'm about to tell you: I'm a Meteorologist. Yes, I'm a Meteorologist (by academic certification, not current profession) with an interest in snow plowing. Years ago I entered the labor market in search of an entry level Meteorologist job, but was unable to obtain one, due in large part to a very down economy. But I have since moved on, and now find myself in a completely different white collar job, where at least some of my science skills are being put to some good use. But I'm a go-getter, and a very hard worker who's looking for additional opportunities.

    Anyway, with some of that background information out of the way, meteorology and weather forecasting remains my most passionate hobby. I still spend a good portion of my free time tracking storms, and predicting them. I was thinking to myself recently that it would be practical, and very convenient if I could put some of my forecasting skills to good use by making some money from it on the side, which is how I arrived here. Knowing when and where it will snow, earlier and more accurately than most people could serve to increase my preparedness and ultimately profitability. Additionally I'm a very hard worker who is eager to learn. I have also spent years as an adolescent working for my Dad's small Landscaping business, so I am accustomed to hard physical labor in the elements, despite the clean, office-type work I'm employed doing now.

    This is my current goal:

    I would like to begin by doing some snow plowing on the side for extra cash. And I would keep my day job, and just take vacation or sick time on days when there is appreciable snow, if work isn't closed. I do NOT currently own a truck or plow but would have the funds to do so by the end of this year, i.e. I would not start plowing until next fall/winter season. In the meantime I expect to soak up all the knowledge I can here (thanks in advance), before I jump head first, next cold season, into plowing.

    So with all that said, what are your thoughts of my goal? Is it reasonable? Can I make enough cash to make it worthwhile?

    All thoughts and feedback are welcome!

    Thanks!

    P.S.

    I apologize for the long-winded post. I just felt like I needed to provide this information so that questions could be better targeted to my problem/thought process.
     
  2. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    I was hoping you were going to be offering up your meteorological skills at an attractive price.

    Your skills are probably more needed for low tolerance clients than the type that you would be able to attract as a part time plower.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
  3. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Per your app in as a fill in sub or ask to ride along and see if you have any takers.
     
  4. TPCLandscaping

    TPCLandscaping Senior Member
    Messages: 296

    maybe look into partnering with an already established snow plow contractor as his storm forecaster and back up driver/laborer when you are able to get out of work.

    Figure in this… we only got a dusting to 2" of snow here today, but it was light and drifted in areas…i ended up plowing most of my accounts and had calls for walk ways to be cleared. I've now plowed at least 10 week days last month and some late sunday nights to make sure places are ready for monday AM…do you have enough time to leave work 10 times a month? Are you able to come and go as you please when a customer calls because their driveway drifted in and they can't get out to go to work?
    Your going to buy a truck and plow, figure in $20k to 30k, or 5-10k and many break downs (you may luck out and not have any breakdowns). Are you going to provide de-icing services? Will you be looking for residential or commercial accounts? In residential areas, some people will complain if your plowing too late or too early, so you can make it into your full time job.

    these are just some thoughts…i'm sure others will have some more things for you to look at…id love to have a meteorologist on my team to help me predict storms, instead of the network paid ones who get paid to hype up a storm that will most likely be nothing.
     
  5. Forecaster

    Forecaster Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    The forecasting side, as I see it would not really be used to attract clients; at least not in the beginning. It would be utilized mostly as a convenience to me -- for planning etc. If in the future I choose to expand, I could go that route, however.

    As for just marketing my forecasting skills for the plowing industry - this is something I could explore as well. But I would like to grow my confidence by doing it all myself first - the forecasting to the plowing.
     
  6. Forecaster

    Forecaster Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    This is something for me to consider as well. Your post prompted me to do some online searches for job opportunities and I was unable to find any. Admittedly, I only put about 10 min. into it...Perhaps you know of a better site, or approach to finding part-time snow-plow work?

    Thanks.
     
  7. Forecaster

    Forecaster Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    Partnering with someone is something I can definitely explore. The problem now, is finding that someone. Personally, I don't know anyone who is in this industry. I expect that once I go out and start doing this myself, I will meet people and be able to begin networking.

    I will not be able to "come and go as I please"; and 10 times a month is far in excess of what I had in mind when I start up. If my business does well and i really enjoy it I will look to make it more of a priority and that can change. Climatology plays a role in this as well. I live in an area that receives only 30" of snow per year on average, and most of it usually comes in large doses - i.e. a few significant storms per season. Temps also rise above freezing not too long after an event, making future removals for the same storm possible, but unlikely. And while that may "suck" for someone who is looking for a lot of work/activity, I think this works strongly in the favor of someone who is just trying to start slowly on their own, while maintaining a different profession, like myself.

    As for a truck and plow, I would like to trade in my car and use the truck as my only vehicle. My commute to and from work is less than 10 miles, and the car I own now is terrible on gas, and requires premium, so gas costs would offset. I will look to grow my business slowly. If I am approached by other potential customers (residential, commercial) for more business I will happily accept. But I can't emphasize this enough: I really want to increase revenue slowly, until I decide this is something that I should be more committed to. This all brings me to my next question: What is the best place to start plowing for? I was always under the impression the town or county would be the best place to start, but I'm not sure...

    I am open to all ideas. If someone would like for me to work for them forecasting and being a laborer/snow plower, I'd be quite interested, insofar as they were cognizant of some of my goals and took into consideration my need for some flexibility, particularly in the beginning, due to my other commitments.

    Thank you very much for your feedback. I really appreciate it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2014
  8. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Phone book,ads in the paper,call them and ask if they need a gopher.
     
  9. cja1987

    cja1987 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,407

    Forecaster,

    Turn on your PM's or shoot me one with your email address or something. I'm also a met, like you not practicing.. But I do have some advice beyond the brief things below.

    I respectfully disagree with those advising you to plow for somebody else. You have a real job that pays the bills that is a completely different ballgame from plowing. If you commit to plowing for somebody else, you will need to be available on their schedule. Yes, same is true for your customers, you will need to plow them when they need to be plowed but you do it and you know when YOU are done. Plowing commercially for a large operation, you will potentially be out cleaning up days after storms and you will not necessarily know, have control of or be able to plan to be "done" at certain times and thus available to real job. Us guys that plow residential can probably agree that you can always do a somewhat half arsed job on a drive just to get somebody out and make it pretty later. Most wont complain about that and that later can be after office job in a pinch. Can any of you guys that own and operate companies here honestly say you'd like to have an employee who may have other job obligations shortly following a storm? Add to that you will make peanuts per hr just driving somebodies plow truck. If you can pick up 1 driveway per hour (and you can do alot more than that depending on how much snow) you are already ahead of what somebody would pay you to operate their truck.

    In your situation, start small, small, small. Think family and friends. Dont be discouraged if you only have 5 customers to start your first winter, THATS GOOD! Trust me, word WILL get around. Do the absolute best job you can for them and the rest will follow. Keep a VERY tightly spaced route, its not a bad idea to do your town only. 5 min across town on a nice day can turn into 5hrs with snow and traffic. We can all relate, the other side of town seems like the other side of the world at times during a snow storm. Plowing is not rocket science or meteorology. Plowing big storms, doing minimal damage to equipment, planning your route and dealing with at times seemingly impossible situations IS something approaching rocket science! None of us can honestly say we have completely figured it out and if we think we have, something comes along next storm and hits us right in the face. Its humbling, its educational and its fun but its not for the faint of heart.

    Its one of those things anyone can do but not everyone can do well. Give 2 plow guys the same truck and same driveway with 30" on it and one might make it look great and the other gets stuck before breaking through the berm at the end. Common scenario that plays out every time we get dumped on. Many are not long on the brain power and think 3" is the same as 30". You will learn and to some extent with plowing, you need to learn the hard way! Fixing a busted hyd hose at 2am when its 10 deg and snowing 3" an hour, going a little too far into that pile and getting stuck beyond belief, backing into that telephone pole you just watched 20 times in your mirror but on this trip backwards you happened to just forget all about it. Crap, unfortunately happens when you plow! You learn to kind of laugh at it after a while. Nobody is immune and there is a reason many call plowing "blood money". Murphys law in full effect, something will go wrong, those that do best are good at improvising and dealing with it. Help will be in the form of you or whatever other plower is nice enough to stop (not many if they are swampped too) when its a 30" blizzard, 2am and a travel ban in effect. You have to be self sufficient, you have to improvise and you constantly need to be thinking on yor feet so as not to get stuck or damage something. Then try doing it all on no sleep which will happen even plowing residential in a big LI type storm that comes around every few yrs.

    Stay far, far, far, far away from commercial. Its just not conducive to having a full time job and taking on that level of responsibility "part time". No way. Residential will be your bread and butter and max profit/fun. If readers don't know, LI is flat with suburban type D-ways, nobody gets their drive salted/sanded, we are not talking a 2 mile long drive on a hill in rural Maine. Residentials in the city are move the snow once and mostly be done with it.

    You can get away without general liability for residential plowing with a waiver, not so for commercial. Many will even advise against residential w/o GL but the fact is many, many, many people do it. Its up to you. Think $6K+ for plowing GL only in NYC metro.

    In a place like LI, you will get that 30" storm every few years and there will be plenty of people with $100 bills (or multiple) in their hands begging for help. Thats when you make your money. Invariably peoples trucks break, they are overwhelmed or just too slow and after a day or 2 people get desperate. If you have taken care of your customers, you can clean up in this situation. Its a very expensive/relatively low feq snow area so residential plowing demands a premium and people will pay it vs where it snows 30 events/winter and you might be lucky to get $30/storm on a 2 mile driveway.

    Look at the entire thing as having fun in snow and any money as secondary. Keep this attitude and you will likely be pleasantly surprised when you turn a few grand out of a big storm. Flip side, something breaks and you might be out a grand. You better want a truck first (seems like you do which is cool) as opposed to buying one just for this. Not everyone understands us weather nuts, we love snow and being out in it and anything involved with it! Dont get too hung up on truck make, model, etc. Buy what you want provided it has 4X4, Id recommend a 1/2 ton if its a daily driver to a white coller job. There will be those that freak out about plowing with one but the fact is they can all handle residential just fine. No sense running around in a 1 ton diesel for a few snowstorms per yer on LI. Anybody wants to argue about that, I'll get some video of my little Cherokee plowing driveways with 30" of snow on 'em next time we get hammered. Slow going for sure but its not impossible. Show me somebody that says they can't deal with 2' of snow in a driveway and I will show you somebody who can't drive/plow.

    Whatever you buy it should have the tow package with aux tranny cooler, if not, add one. Otherwise, plan on a good set of all terrain tires (its gonna run you near $1K with taxes) and at least 4 or 500 lbs of weight in the back. Tires and lack of weight in back are the 2 most common denominators that pop up when some idiot is sitting there spinning tires wondering why he can't move anymore. That and lack of any concept of physics which is where your WX education will help :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2014
  10. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    He hasn't been on since he posted.
     
  11. RUJusten

    RUJusten Member
    from VA
    Messages: 47

    I am not a met, nor am I in the construction/landscape field. I have an office job and have 5+ weeks vacation/PTO/leave that I save up for winter time. I made an investment of approximately $10k (give or take) and got a little older truck (in great shape - see http://www.plowsite.com/showthread.php?t=153030 for pics of my truck), new Western plow setup, and a new transmission since plowing is very hard on that aspect of the truck (you don't need to invest $30k to have a reliable setup). I sub my services to a landscape company that needed good, reliable drivers. I don't even worry about getting snow contracts, don't want to be in that aspect of the business. I am perfectly content making $x/hr plowing when the Washington DC area gets snow. You can find companies that are looking for solid, reliable plow drivers on craigslist and other websites like that.

    I got my experience from driving a truck for a company during college - I must admit, the mistakes made while learning how to plow were made in someone else's equipment. When I graduated college, I decided that I wanted to go in another direction full time, but still really enjoy plowing and everything about it. So I decided to sub my services out.

    Trust me, EVERY company is looking for good reliable people (and in this area, drivers with valid DL's that speak English). The company is stoked that I represent their company, am professional, can speak to customers and explain things to them in a professional manner as well as be on time, not milk the clock and do great work. I totally support you making the investment and see where you can sub your services. Being a sub is very marketable to a company b/c they don't need to make any initial investment - simply pay an hourly wage and be done with it.

    Good luck to you and your venture.
     
  12. MediaLogicGroup

    MediaLogicGroup Junior Member
    Messages: 1

    Do any of you know which companies (weather forecasting companies) offer some form of alert (text, email, etc.) when snow is in the forecast? Who is better or worse?

    Thanks!
     
  13. Citytow

    Citytow Senior Member
    from phila
    Messages: 548

    try your new found skills here