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Snow timing, salt or wait and plow??

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by snowcrazy, Jan 25, 2013.

  1. snowcrazy

    snowcrazy Senior Member
    from ohio
    Messages: 409

    I just wanted some opinions because of the various ways i see it done.

    If the timing of a snow starts right when stores are opeining and lasts say through the afternoon hours and accumulation is supposed to be 2-3" what do you tend to do?????

    I see several just go out and pre-salt and show up after lots are clear of cars to site check. Others I see don't salt early but show up as snow is falling and start clearing runways only because customers are in and out of parking areas...

    Im not sure there is a wrong way to do it but wanted some thoughts.

    Ive tried both, clearing runways at malls, banks etc but that still leaves several hours of parking areas untouched where customers have to track through it.......

    If you pre-salt and have a 2" trigger though and get the 2" you may screw yourself out of a push because salt has burned most off...

    This came up in conversation at my local mcdonalds after our last snow we had where several different (4) snow removal contractors were BS'ing........ It was amazing how much these guys opinions differed and I just wanted some more opinions.....

    I see the pre-salting being safer from a customer standpoint but shoot yourself in the foot for a push in the end on small snowfalls. What would YOU do???
     
  2. Rc2505

    Rc2505 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,245

    Do exactly what your contract says your going to do. Mine says during business hours, we push drive lanes, and call it good. If there is a big enough open area in the parking spaces I will go ahead and push that as well. Otherwise I go back after hours and clean everything up. However, this is how my contract reads, because I had it written that way. You need to do what your contract says you will do.
     
  3. hatefulmechanic

    hatefulmechanic Senior Member
    Messages: 228

    It will depend greatly on the contract, like stated above.

    My seasonal accounts I am there as I feel it needs to be done to keep the area safe. If I salt and it takes care of a small accumulation, where I don't have to push, then its less time in it for me and everything is safe and clear.

    My per-push accounts have no trigger for salting, use judgment. Then they are either 2" or 3" triggers, all based off of ground accumulation. I will go and salt the lot before or right at the start of the storm to keep them safe, then if we get to the trigger I go and push as the contract dictates, getting a signed work order for each.

    I don't understand what the issue is, I am paid for every service I do and the lot stays safe.
     
  4. cpmi

    cpmi Senior Member
    from CT
    Messages: 162

    As stated its all about what's in the contract. All of our commercial property's are to be kept safe and clear as possible at all times as we see fit. Keeping the property up to customers expectations (and your contract) is more important than losing out on a billable push.
     
  5. coldcoffee

    coldcoffee Senior Member
    Messages: 776

    Your in Ohio...right now we have a front just starting to move in. Shortly, everything we do gets salted. By no later than 2:00 plowing begins. In the mean time instead of sitting idle, additional clean up will take place from this weeks events. The snow moves out by 5-7 pm tonight. Once the plowing is done, everything gets another round of salt. Tomorrow before daybreak, more clean up & more salt.
     
  6. snowcrazy

    snowcrazy Senior Member
    from ohio
    Messages: 409

    This to me would be a good way for sure but what those guys were arguing back and forth about is that if you presalt u screw yourself out of a push if you have 2" trigger and you get exactly 2" but by the time storms over theres not enough to push because u presalted........... i like the way your doing things above its sounds like the most efficient way and is closest to what i do........ i like all the replies and hearing different opinions!!!
     
  7. coldcoffee

    coldcoffee Senior Member
    Messages: 776

    For the most part, most of my plowing is seasonal, so that doesn't really affect me. If it's a per push lot & the lot is large...chances are your not salting the entire lot anyhow...which would still need pushed. My main areas are open 24/7, so there are always people coming and going. They tend to clean off their cars in the melted isle ways, so they don't have to get their loafers all wet...works for me.

    Clean up requires the snow to get pushed sometimes over pre salted areas...the result of both of those matters & the fact that cars don't always park straight or pull all the way in, is generally why the process continues, if the client wants to maintain clean isles.

    You will also never see snow behind cars in my lots, where as some contractors create speed bumps, resulting from cheating the push & salt melting the outside of that berm of snow left under cars & then it refreezes into ice. That's how I've acquired some properties over the years. Nobody should have to leave part of their tire behind in order to back out of a parking space.

    Even after the center of the isle is salted, by the end of the event there is still usually a need to plow just from traffic movement & adjustment. If an SUV was hanging out 3', leaves that spot...then a small car pulls in...there may be up to 5' of snow left behind & needs adjusted.
     
  8. SnowGuy73

    SnowGuy73 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 24,867

    If you already are serviceing this property you should already have a contract with a "scope of work" in place. That "scope of work" should be your key to the type of service you provide and under what condition you provide it.... :salute:
     
  9. MSsnowplowing

    MSsnowplowing Senior Member
    Messages: 711

    About the same way I do it,
    just adding;
    it really doesn't matter what your trigger is, you charge them if you push or not.
    Just because you salted and it cleared the snow for you doesn't mean you don't charge them for a 2' trigger.
    It all hinges on how you write your contract.
    I do charge a little less when I just salt than plowing because I'm not putting wear and tear on the truck plowing.
     
  10. Jeckstine

    Jeckstine Member
    from PA
    Messages: 55

    I would not charge for a push I did not do.
     
  11. snowcrazy

    snowcrazy Senior Member
    from ohio
    Messages: 409

    Yeah thats actually what i do is what my contract saids i will....... Im happy with the way I service my accounts but wanted some others thoughts on the issue.

    I salted today and for the most part did what I could........ None of my accounts let me "pre-salt" as in before the first flake flies..... makes it a pain because the whole reason they don't want it is the fact that if I pre-salt a storm and we get no snow there not gonna want to pay for it which i perfectly understand and with the way our weather ppl are it would def be a gamble. Our whole viewing area was gonna get 1-3" today and of course as usual every one of my local forecasters were wrong and we got about 1/4".

    This puts me in a bit of a pinch on snows like this because I pretty much only service stores and resaraunts......... This snow today didnt start until right at 9am and ended about noon so most parking area i cannot get very well so i salt the drive lanes best as possible and come back that night after everything closes up and salt the parking areas.

    Thats kinda why I started this thread titled "snow timing"...... Today wound up being a pretty good example of why I would like to presalt ALL my lots when snow starts flying at a bad time like today..........

    I would love for my contract to say that I pre-salt when snow is going to fall at times like this but I tried and none of them would go for it because of the chance that the snow would miss us all together.

    I met up with a few of the same guys today at mcd's (2 of the 4 i was talking about in original post) and they didnt go out and do anything until the snow had stopped because they were hoping for atleast an inch because that is there trigger to push and salt. anything less than 1" they just salt.......... I see what there trying to do but I guess Im just leaning towards keeping the lots safe and making a little less than making customers tramps through the snow and ice for hours before I show up.

    Now if snow starts flying in the evening I would prolly do things there way and try to let it get to my trigger......... Guess the timing is the deal with me.......
     
  12. GMD1984

    GMD1984 Senior Member
    Messages: 123

    the way we do it is if its just salting they are billed for a plow, if its a plow and a salt it billed as a plow and salt and if need to be salted later after the final plow and salt its billed as a plow. are salting rate is only for when we are there plowing.
     
  13. ALC-GregH

    ALC-GregH PlowSite.com Addict
    from pa
    Messages: 1,132

    How can you charge them if you did not push snow? On a 2" trigger if you salt it, it's going to clear the 2". What is there to push? Sounds like you have a scam type contract if ya ask me.

    "We listen to our clients and work with them on each contract to set up their own specific needs for safety."

    Does this include charging for work not preformed?
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2013
  14. snocrete

    snocrete Banned
    Messages: 2,862

    I would never send a bill to a customer for plowing, when i salted...or vise versa:dizzy:
     
  15. GMD1984

    GMD1984 Senior Member
    Messages: 123

    thats how are contacts read and every one is very happy with it
     
  16. Maleko

    Maleko Senior Member
    from Ct
    Messages: 778

    ^^^ THIS ^^^
    If the contract has a 1or 2 " trigger and we only get 1 inch and all i do is salt i still get paid for that trigger. Its up to me how i get rid of the snow, either scrape it or apply salt
     
  17. Maleko

    Maleko Senior Member
    from Ct
    Messages: 778

    On a trigger, i dont think it matters. If the storm is only 2 inches or say less than one inch,
    Its up to me on how to treat it. if its snowing light enough and i pre salt, sometimes i can just apply salt throughout the storm and nothing will stick.
    Never having to even put my plow on.
     
  18. snowcrazy

    snowcrazy Senior Member
    from ohio
    Messages: 409

    I see how your doing it and thats good that your customers are okay with that but that simply would not fly in my area................. I think its simply because a lot of these franchise restarants and malls around here that I service have been burned so many times in the past. Im not saying your are burning anyone so don't think thats what im saying..... If your customers are happy thats all that matters......

    Its funny how work comes my way actually.... I am a strip mall manager (thats just my title, im the poor dude that changes garbage and cleans the lot for an hour per day) and I also just keep an eye out and report back to the owner that is located in a totally different state. We met for up for our six month "checkup" and she got out the plowing and salting bills for the previous current contractor at that time. She said to me that the plowing bills were really costing them that year....... As I looked at the bills I realized that the past two snow events they were billed for plowing and salting when I knew damn good and well they only salted..... I brought it to my bosses attention and she decided to ask our Iga store if she could view some of there overnight security tapes of the lot.

    To make a long story short it wound up in court and we (property management company) got a settlement for right at 10K with proof from the tapes. Anyways, the reason for this story is just to show you why they watch us like hawks in this area. They wouldnt let it fly to bill for a plowing when it was only salted or should I say per "trigger" such as your doing although I do see how your doing it and hey if they are happy good deal!!! Id bill "per trigger" like that If I could. LOL
     
  19. Maleko

    Maleko Senior Member
    from Ct
    Messages: 778

    I still dont understand why it matters how the snow is removed.

    If i use a shovel or a huge loader. the price per inch stays the same .

    It will cost me more if i use shovels, and more to run a loader . if i use my truck and plow thats what i figured it for.

    If i can keep the blacktop clear with salt on a low snow event i do.
     
  20. merrimacmill

    merrimacmill PlowSite.com Addict
    from MA
    Messages: 1,822

    As others have touched on, really it all comes down to cost control, no matter what type of contract it is. Whether this is cost control for your bottom line on a seasonal contract (every pound of salt is money flying out the window), or cost control for the customer on a per service contract (not over applying/billing for salt or plowing).

    Lets start with the scope of work: The customer's expectation of what the parking lot should look like at the end of the event should be clearly defined in writing. For us, every lot is treated with the same high expectation of quality. So for this post, I'll assume everything should be black pavement within 8 hours of the event ending. The scope should also specify what material will be used for either deicing, anti icing, or traction (sand). For us, it is always straight salt. The customers expectations of during business hours and winter event service should also be defined. Will you plow constantly (larger sites), at each 1", 2", 3", etc interval? What should the service cycle be and how much capacity do you need to meet the desired service cycle based on production rates? The customer should define "lot must be cleared in ___ hours upon event end." Equipment assigned to the site will be scheduled accordingly to those expectations. All too often contractors do not align customer expectations with their service intentions, and then sit around wondering why they get so many complaints..

    Next is the contract type. If it is a per service, or a per event contract, I would never ever pre-treat (unless you are requested/being paid to do so, which is a rare and whole different story). This is because you will cheat yourself out of a push as mentioned before. The concept of pretreating should really not even be put on the table as a 'cost saving' option, because as we all know plowing is a much more expensive operation to take on, with many more billable hours, and generally requires treating afterwards anyways (two birds with one stone). For those per service/per event lots my goal is to get that snow to accumulate as fast as possible on the pavement, so we can plow it and generate revenue. Then at the end of the event, we get to salt it. If it is anything more than 1/2", it gets plowed + salted = more revenue. To sum it up: The goal of per service accounts is to generate as many billable opportunities as possible.

    However on a Seasonal contract, my mindset completely changes to "cost control". This is money I'm already getting, so the more efficient I can perform the scope of work, the better my bottom line will be. As we all know, its much cheaper to spend 15 mins salting a 5 acre lot than it is to send a crew out to plow it for hours, and then still have to salt it, thats all money out the window. With that said, now comes IMO the single most difficult decision making process associated with snow removal. To pre-treat or not to pre-treat? You need to consider everything about your conditions and the forecast to make that decision. You need to know data such as ground surface temperature, air temperature, dew point, expected snow fall, snow fall accumulation rates per hour, storm duration, and future temp forecasts. These things will play a HUGE factor in the effectiveness of a pretreat. For instance, salt's effectiveness and efficiency per pound decreases by very large margins by a simple 10 degree drop in temperature. 10 degrees difference of air temp will change my entire decision making process for a seasonal account.

    Both contract types will have the exact same finished product and service level, but they are simply achieved in two different ways.

    Lets lay out two 1" scenarios to illustrate what I'm trying to describe.

    1. Seasonal account - One inch of snow expected over a 8 hour period (.125" per hr), with temperatures between 28-32 degrees and a GST of similar range. I would definitely pre-treat this. Temperatures are high enough that salt will be working at a pretty decent efficiency rate, snowfall rate is slow enough that we won't experience rapid accumulation meaning that salt will have enough time to melt down and create a surface brine. In this situation, we could prevent ALL plowing with one application of salt. MUCH CHEAPER to do on a seasonal contract, and will also produce much higher customer satisfaction since they will never see snow on the lot.

    2. Seasonal account - One inch of snow expected over a 2 hour period (.5" per hr), with temperatures between 15-20 degrees, and a GST of similar range. This would be a waste to pretreat, because the snowfall accumulation rate will be too fast for the salt and its lowered efficiency due to the much lower temperatures to keep up with melting off the snow. Also consider the additional amount of salt needed to overcome the lower efficiency rate due to low temperatures. If a pretreat is done in this situation, you will end up plowing off your pre-treat and wasting a lot of money.

    Theres no way to really guide every potential situation since every storm, customer, contract, market, and company is different. But this is just a broad example of what comes into play for me when making this decision. Its by far the most difficult part of the job for me. I never used to think about it when I had a few places, but now the decision to treat our parking lots or not is equivalent to a decision that costs thousands of dollars to perform. This is why I take it so seriously, and put so much thought into why I'm making what call.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2013