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Damage control measures

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Gr8WhiteNorth, Mar 13, 2013.

  1. Gr8WhiteNorth

    Gr8WhiteNorth Senior Member
    Messages: 227

    What do you guys do for control measures to lower number of property or equipment damage incidents?

    Basic training? What does it include?

    Other control measures? example- I make our loader operators walk 360' around each pile to inspect for obstacles before they dive into it? Damage is still happening so I'm thinking I should be making the dump truck operators do it too. This way, hidden obstacles have a better chance of being seen, the loader op is forced to take it more seriously and won't forget to do it, and he will feel really stupid after hitting something they all just talked about avoiding.

    Our damage this year is out of control.

    What is everyone else doing?
  2. beanz27

    beanz27 Senior Member
    Messages: 984

    My boss specifically pointed out problem areas and said "if you hit this, you have to spend the time to fix it, AND buy everyone a case of beer"

    Needless to say i remembered the problem areas and didn't break anything.
  3. alldayrj

    alldayrj PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,108

    what specifically is getting damaged?
    curbs? maps and better staking, pre season site visits with crew

    trucks? better drivers, cant fix stupid lol
  4. Gr8WhiteNorth

    Gr8WhiteNorth Senior Member
    Messages: 227

    Parked and moving cars, house, building, plug ins, signs, barriers, garage doors, hydro poles, concrete guard at gas station, and more fences than I'd care to admit. Our fleet of plow trucks looks like its been through a war zone with more wounds than the last 10 years combined. 3 clutches in 1 dump truck all being deemed "operator error" by 2 separate mechanics.

    Division manager has terminated a few operators already after 3rd strike. We've changed our training to include simulations of how to stack near fences, how to drag snow out of tight spots when loading, remind daily about a "stay 2ft away" from obstacles rule. We haven't hit any curbs yet, so staking is good. Everything damaged gas been 4ft or higher anyway. We have toolbox talks before every shift. We have gone on ride alongside with dump truck ops to rule out riding clutch or inappropriate driving.

    We've had to raise advertised pay by $7/hr to attract better applicants. We conduct in person interview. We review skills in equipment clearing snow in our yard. We have a policy of 100 hours minimum operating experience.

    Things seem to be getting out if control. We have 21 routes that run 24 hrs per day on big events. Ops may work 13-15 hours max. We used to work way longer with a smaller crew.

    What's a "normal" amount of damage to customer property and clearing equipment per dollar in snow sales? Or per hour of operating?
  5. peteo1

    peteo1 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,660

    I understand that some things just happen which is why they're called accidents but what you're describing sounds like complete carelessness. I can see taking out a curb or some sod here and there if stakes come up missing or its a new account/operator but I'm at a loss to understand how you hit something in excess of 4' tall. It sounds like you have all the proper measures in place to get good help, maybe its just one of those years? I don't know if its legal but maybe make your guys sign something stating they have to pay x amount of dollars for repairs to customer property. I bet after they buy a few fence panels and install them in January when its 10* outside they'd be a lot more respectfull of your accounts and your equipment.
  6. Italiano67

    Italiano67 Senior Member
    Messages: 645

    Unfortunately that would not be legal.Tempting for anyone in our shoes but still not legal.
  7. IMAGE

    IMAGE Sponsor
    Messages: 1,747

    It's not legal to charge an employee for damage. But you can put an incentive program out there for them. $1000 bonus to every employee that makes the season without any issues. An issue could be missing a shift or a blatant operator error. 3 strike method. First strike take $250 off the end of year bonus, second strike take $250, third strike they loose the last $500 and their job. You have to put it in writing at the beginning of the season, and make it available to all employees in a "class" example, make it available to all loader operators. Maybe have a different bonus or scale for sidewalk guys, and a different one for mechanics, etc...

    It could cost you a healthy amount of bonus $$ in the spring, but it should make your guys more reliable and attentive. And you can maybe offset it with hiring ppl a couple dollars an hour cheaper, if they know they have that bonus hanging out there for doing a good job.

    Edit: It might not be possible with the amount of guys you have, but i also like to randomly give my guys an extra $20-$100 outta my pocket for doing a good job and working hard. Also taking time to have breakfast everynow and then with them goes a long ways too. Gives me a chance to talk to them about what they are seeing/needing on the job, and it lets them know I'm paying attention too and we can talk about whatever issues there might be.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  8. johnhenry1933

    johnhenry1933 Senior Member
    Messages: 256

    It is perfectly legal if an employee signs a contract so stipulating.

    Back in the day I used to have employees sign such contracts. This included provisions of: the requirement of two week written notice of intent to quit, and, if damage was caused (intentional or negligent), their wage would be reduced to the prevailing minimum wage until balance was paid. When such a malady occurred (not often), it was generally the last of the employee, so all we were left with was the employee's last two weeks of pay to recalculate.

    I have the opinion it is operator error, barring some other evidence. Now, that wouldn't hold up in a courtroom, but I have the same opinion about operator error as the State Patrol and County Sheriff of drivers on the road: generally an accident is avoidable. It is rally that simple. Driving too fast for conditions, following too closely, unfamilarity with road/weather conditions and/or surroundings.

    It's an employer's wet dream these days to have such an abundance of available labor. Anyone that's been in the business for more than ten years know this. The trick is, always has been, and always will be to find, and keep good qualified employees. Obviously, consult a lawyer specialized in contract and labor law in your state before entering such contracts to ascertain they are legal and enforceable. Bonuses (or the potential reduction of for damages) also provides a good incentive to keep meticulous.
  9. DodgeRam1985

    DodgeRam1985 Member
    from Ohio
    Messages: 82

    My employees pay for damage caused by their negligence or stupidity. Honest accidents are covered without them having to pay for the damage, but I don’t have time or money to spare to fix something because the driver or worker was doing something stupid (like plowing a driveway at unreal speeds and going through a garage door). If an employee chooses to not pay, they are making the choice to leave their job with me.

    Now I got bashed pretty good for this response the last time, but I checked with my lawyer and the reason why I’m ok with my business doing this, is that my employees are actually signed on as partners in my company (at a very small percentage), and thus I am able to avoid the legalities of making an employee pay for damage. They get a share of profits (which is their bonus) on top of an hourly wage. My employees are all classified as employee/partner.

    But like others have said, you just can’t fix stupid!
  10. dfd9

    dfd9 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,475

    OK, I used to be in the "It's illegal" camp, but it isn't. If they sign the contract or if they sign a permission to deduct (can't remember the technical term) and if their pay does not fall below minimum wage, it is absolutely LEGAL to have employees pay for damage.

    Sounds like you're doing everything right, OP, but there is something that must be missing and I am not thinking too clearly right now, so I'm not sure what it might be.

    I am with Image on a bonus program instead of a penalty, because we all know crap happens in this business, but it does drive one nuts at times.
  11. TCLA

    TCLA 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,707

    This is true.

    What's also true is there is no such thing as an accident. It's a neglectful act.