$1.5m landscape maint company in south needs advice starting snow/ice division

brendontw

Member
Location
Oklahoma City
Hello all. I am a senior member on lawnsite but my first time on this site.

We are in Oklahoma, have a commercial landscape maintenance company. We service lots of small properties like restaurants, hotels, grocery stores etc. and also have a decent number of bigger properties.

We need to begin offering snow/ice management. We deal with more ice here than snow, but contracts require both.

Trying to decide what would be the most versatile setup that would work well the properties we have. I don’t want something too big to easily navigate or too small for some of our bigger parking lots. We also need to be able to spread ice melt. Should we buy an F550 with a 10’ boss plow and a spreader for the bed? Is this too big? If so, what would you recommend for us? Thanks for any advice.
 

Aerospace Eng

2000 Club Member
Location
Zelienople, PA
Welcome.

i don’t have any specific advice to give, as I don’t plow commercially, but I think you need to be more specific before people can help.

What is a big lot in one place may not be in another. Are you plowing 100 acre lots, 10 acre lots, etc.?

How long do you have to clear after the snow or ice stops?

Are you doing sidewalks at these properties?

Are you limited to one vehicle? I think that many people on here run dedicated plow or salt trucks.

if so, what will you do for backup?

etc. etc.
 

Kinport

Senior Member
Location
Powell Wyoming
welcome!
If your going to go the F550 route, I would get a Single cab f550 with a 9 ft bed. We have a f550 crew cab and it’s a little cumbersome in smaller lots. If your mostly salting I would think that the higher payload of the f550 would work in your advantage. As far as versatility, it’s pretty hard to beat an expandable plow. 8.5ft-11ft and everything in between. Western makes a very nice expandable plow.
 
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brendontw

Member
Location
Oklahoma City
Thanks fellas. Yes, should have been more specific.

Our small lots are fast food restaurants. So probably half acre. Biggest lots will be 4-5 acres right now.

Just want to make sure I don’t over or under but whenever I do, since we will probably get something brand new.

Our current trucks are all 3/4 to 1 ton but all 2WD. We have one f550 but it is a dedicated lawn care truck. Also 2WD.
 
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brendontw

Member
Location
Oklahoma City
Hello again everyone, thanks for your continued assistance on my other thread about what vehicle to purchase vehicle.

I could tell you all day how to price and bid commercial landscape maintenance based on company budget, OH recovery, man-hours, etc...

Snow/ice - I have zero knowledge of best practices or typical going rates. I know it is region specific as well, but hoping to get some basic information to piece together a plan for how to bid/price snow and ice work. In Oklahoma, snow/ice is not common but is a major problem when it does happen. Because it is not common, it's difficult to put the cost of the truck/plow/spreader, etc. into play when calculating rates. Plus I don't know how you guys even calculate rates.

Down here guys use "ice melt" commonly by the bag, to spread. Probably because its easier to store and handle than bulk salt. A lot of customers as what the "price per spread bag" is. Others ask what the flat rate to plow their parking lot is. Others ask the price per hour to plow, others ask the price per inch. I've had some guys tell me $100 per hour to plow is a great rate, and others tell me $300 per hour. I want to be competitive but not too low. Typically we are a little higher than others around here for the services we perform.

I would be greatly appreciative of any information on best practices you can offer to help us begin performing this service for our customers.
 

Mark Oomkes

PlowSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
Not sure what you mean by "dedicated lawn care truck" but don't rule it out just because it's 2WD.

A 550 with a spreader in the back can push a lot of snow, especially if the lots are flat.

Differing opinions on a 2 WD 250.

A 4WD 550 is a great option for plowing and salting. If you get a shorter wheelbase they are extremely maneuverable and carry a fair amount of salt.

As for plow...how much snow do you get on average? Not sure a V or expanding plow makes the most sense.

Spreader, your best bet is likely an electric. (I can't believe I just typed that). A hydro spreader run off the PTO is an option, but quite a bit more expensive and might not be justifiable depending on how much use it will get.
 
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brendontw

Member
Location
Oklahoma City
Not sure what you mean by "dedicated lawn care truck" but don't rule it out just because it's 2WD.

A 550 with a spreader in the back can push a lot of snow, especially if the lots are flat.

Differing opinions on a 2 WD 250.

A 4WD 550 is a great option for plowing and salting. If you get a shorter wheelbase they are extremely maneuverable and carry a fair amount of salt.

As for plow...how much snow do you get on average? Not sure a V or expanding plow makes the most sense.

Spreader, your best bet is likely an electric. (I can't believe I just typed that). A hydro spreader run off the PTO is an option, but quite a bit more expensive and might not be justifiable depending on how much use it will get.

Thanks Mark. The reason the current 550 is dedicated is that it is permanently outfitted with lawn care equipment which is may be used the week before and after a snow storm. (pre emergents, etc.) We could technically remove the lawn equipment to outfit for snow/ice but this would be rather burdensome and I'd rather just buy another truck that we can have set up for snow/ice than can be used for other things in the season. Was thinking even possibly a 550 dump truck. Not sure.

Are you against the 4WD for any reason, or just saying that a 2WD will do the trick? Are the 4WD's more difficult to mount a plow to?

What is a solid, long lasting salt spreader brand? How do I size this appropriately? Not sure how much salt goes down per acre or per 1k SF.

On snow, average about one storm per year, and probably 1-3 inches per storm. Every 4 years or so we will get a 10-12" storm.

Ice - two or three storms per year average probably 1/8 to 1/4" of ice.

Thanks for pointing out the cost benefit between electric/PTO.
 

Mark Oomkes

PlowSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
In your area $100/hour would be stupid low. Your overhead and equipment recovery is compressed into fewer events but still costs the same as another area that gets more events. Insurance is generally higher than landscape management. WC is higher also.

Plowing and salting is hard on equipment, trucks will not last nearly as long as those that don't plow or salt, so that has to be figured in.

Time to perform the work is compressed compared to mowing, so a higher rate should be figured anyways. I'd say "emergency service" but that gets @Hydromaster in a tizzy, so I won't.
 
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brendontw

Member
Location
Oklahoma City
Yes, everything you're saying is what's going through my head. The only thing that counters that is the equipment life is also significantly prolonged due to low usage.

Just not sure what mechanism to use for bidding, as in "per unit" - per inch, per hour, per hour per piece of equipment, per bag/ton for salting, etc. And the trying to stab at what might be a reasonable price per unit for those things in our area. I know what other vendors charge for landscape maintenance. No clue on this stuff.
 

Mark Oomkes

PlowSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
Thanks Mark. The reason the current 550 is dedicated is that it is permanently outfitted with lawn care equipment which is may be used the week before and after a snow storm. (pre emergents, etc.) We could technically remove the lawn equipment to outfit for snow/ice but this would be rather burdensome and I'd rather just buy another truck that we can have set up for snow/ice than can be used for other things in the season.

Good thinking. I hate the time spent switching spent from winter to summer and vice versa. Kind of a necessary evil for us, but I still hate it.

Was thinking even possibly a 550 dump truck.

Good idea.

Are you against the 4WD for any reason, or just saying that a 2WD will do the trick? Are the 4WD's more difficult to mount a plow to?

Not against them at all, all of my trucks other than the 750 and Sterling are 4WD. A lot of guys say they plow 90% of the time in 2WD with proper weight/ballast. I don't have that kind of patience. If I hit the go pedal, I expect to go.

I had a 2WD 550 for several years. It worked fine, just got sick of spending money on it.

Plows are just as easy to mount on a 2WD or 4WD.

What is a solid, long lasting salt spreader brand? How do I size this appropriately? Not sure how much salt goes down per acre or per 1k SF.

Up until a season ago, I wouldn't recommend any electric spreader. Bought a Western Striker from a fellow PS member and it actually works fairly well. Nothing like a hydro, but it works. I'd go crazy if we had to spread all of our salt with electric spreaders.

For snow, 800-1,000# per acre is a good rule of thumb at least up here. All bets are off with ice. It depends on if you can spread before it starts to ice, or if it's raining so hard it's a waste of time. It's nothing to use triple the normal amount for ice. That's using bulk salt.

On snow, average about one storm per year, and probably 1-3 inches per storm. Every 4 years or so we will get a 10-12" storm.

I wouldn't get to worried about a V or expanding plow then. You can add wings if you want to increase productivity.

However, a Vplow is much nicer when salting as the wings tuck in close to the truck making maneuverability much better.

Ice - two or three storms per year average probably 1/8 to 1/4" of ice.

Thanks for pointing out the cost benefit between electric/PTO.

In my area, the benefits of a PTO or central clutch driven spreader far outweigh the lower cost of an electric.

At 1/4" of ice you're going to need a fair amount of salt.
 

Philbilly2

PlowSite Fanatic
Location
Sandwich IL
Are you against the 4WD for any reason, or just saying that a 2WD will do the trick? Are the 4WD's more difficult to mount a plow to?

I believe that people are saying it can be done with a proper equipped 2WD if you already have one sitting around that you could use.

Correct tires and weight are key to making 2wd work.

I am one of those people Mark is talking about that has plowed much more of my time in 2wd than 4wd.

From experience I can tell you that a proper set up 2wd truck can out push 4wd truck that is empty with wide or all-season tires in snow.
 

Ajlawn1

PlowSite Fanatic
Location
South Bend, IN
I believe that people are saying it can be done with a proper equipped 2WD if you already have one sitting around that you could use.

Correct tires and weight are key to making 2wd work.

I am one of those people Mark is talking about that has plowed much more of my time in 2wd than 4wd.

From experience I can tell you that a proper set up 2wd truck can out push 4wd truck that is empty with wide or all-season tires in snow.


Ditto.... Rarely do I ever plow in 4wd in a 4wd...
 
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brendontw

Member
Location
Oklahoma City
They've requested a range. Price per hour, flat rate, price per inch, price per bag, price per application. No idea what the competition uses. I could sell them on whatever method we choose to use. Just need to know what is most reliable/low risk of loss/good opportunity for generous income.
 

Unraveller

Senior Member
Location
Ontario, Canada
They've requested a range. Price per hour, flat rate, price per inch, price per bag, price per application. No idea what the competition uses. I could sell them on whatever method we choose to use. Just need to know what is most reliable/low risk of loss/good opportunity for generous income.

Ask for a copy of their previous contract, offer to beat it by 5%.
 

Unraveller

Senior Member
Location
Ontario, Canada
So, if that previous contract would result in a 20% loss based on his expenses, he'll only incur a 25% loss overall?

Yep, it's a crappy method, but when you have nothing else to go on, "market rate" isn't the worst place to start. After you have the information you can estimate / budget for the season. Then you can decide if it's worth your time to even bother.

If you have a good relationship with a client, it's not very hard to get.

It'll also give you all the stipulations of their previous contract, so you are comparing apples to apples.
 
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