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How do you guys have routes that are 10 hours long and keep customers happy?

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by JFon101231, Feb 20, 2014.

  1. JFon101231

    JFon101231 Senior Member
    from CT
    Messages: 457

    I'm pretty small right now, and mostly just use the $ to pay for the extra insurance and truck/plow. I also do some repairs etc. on the side. For most storms around here under 6-8" I go out once per driveway at the end of the storm. Generally takes me about 2-2.5 hours to hit them all and be home as I have 1 that is kind of off the path. If more than 6" I generally will hit them 1/2 way through the storm to open things up but not necessarily make sure its 'pretty'.

    Question - how are you guys plowing for 10-12 hours at a clip and still keeping your customers happy??? I don't get how your customers being cleared out 8 hours after the snow has stopped at say 10am are OK with being stuck home still at 6pm etc. Or say an overnight storm that stops at 1am and they are not cleared out by 7am to go to work.

    Maybe I'm missing something... I'd like to roughly double my route, but I don't see how I could do much more than that and still keep people happy unless the end customers were all people to agreed to that level of service (retired etc.)
  2. edgeair

    edgeair Senior Member
    Messages: 597

    We run close to 10 hours on an average 6" snow here. With the blower equipment, it doesn't make much difference when there is less than a foot to the time we spend on our route.

    We plan our route to accommodate people to the best we can, and if its a heavy snow, then we might do a quick opening pass followed later by a full clearing.

    Some people want cleared before they leave for work, others don't care or would rather be cleared after they leave so that we can access the whole driveway. In this way, you can accommodate most peoples needs and still maintain a longer route. Our "prime time" (as would be most others on here) is from about 6am to 9am and we usually reserve most of that time for commercial businesses with the machines we use for both driveways and lots. Our driveway machine just keeps going on driveways all morning.

    We usually start around 3 or 4 am or sometimes earlier if its heavy with our commercial sites that are close to our starting point, clearing up the bulk and go back just before opening to finish. They are within 0.5 miles of our start point so its no biggie to go back a second time. The main problem we have is the town plows, they are pretty aggressive and start around 4 am. We can have a 2" snowfall, but the driveways will sometimes have a foot or more if they decide they want to wing it back. They are aggressive here at getting down to the pavement on every pass.

    What can sometimes throw a wrench into the plan is when we get a heavy daytime snow. The commercial sites are typically plugged full of cars so we don't do much with them other than the entrances etc. And we usually do a quick driveway run to open things up before 4pm.

    I think if you are clear in your contract and description of your service that you start at a particular "trigger" and will accommodate time requests where possible depending on the storm etc. you should be fine.
  3. DJ Contracting

    DJ Contracting PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,392

    Prioritizing has worked for us

    We prioritize the customers, any that need to be out say by 7:00am get their drive done so the can go to work, the rest are in no hurry to travel the snow covered roads. We continue with our routs and when we are in the area where the driveways were done earlier we'll do the sidewalks, seems to work for us.
  4. linckeil

    linckeil PlowSite.com Addict
    from CT
    Messages: 1,272

    i have 50 residentials. they all know my route takes me 6 hours for a 6" storm (longer if more snow). so if it stops snowing at midnight, everyone is done at 6am and there are no problems. but when it stops snowing at 8am, the route is not completed until 2pm. they all are are told this upfront and all understand they are not my only customer and they all know they cannot all be done first. those that don't understand or those that frequently call me within the 6 hour time period wondering when they will be plowed get dropped from the route.

    i find that 6 hours is acceptable. anything over that is too long to make customers wait in my opinion unless they are ok with being shut in for an extended period of time.
  5. Brian Young

    Brian Young PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,394

    A 10 hour route is way too much for one truck, its only a matter of time before people start to complain.
  6. Midwest BuildIt Inc

    Midwest BuildIt Inc PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,280

    you can also use diff types of businesses to your advantage. early ones gets done by 530am, apartment lanes done by 630 can go back after noon or so for full plow, offices dont open till 8, smaller shops 9-10, restaurants anywhere from 10-4pm, add in a few drives that dont care when they get done and maybe a bar or dinner only place that doesnt open till 5pm. some specialty medical places sometimes dont open till afternoon too.so with the right account types you can get a long route and keep everyone happy.
  7. jasonv

    jasonv PlowSite.com Addict
    from kannada
    Messages: 1,122

    How does 6 inches keep someone from driving out of their driveway? They leave for work in the morning with a few inches on the ground, come back in the evening and its all gone. Frankly, its easier for both when the plowing gets done while their car is OUT, since otherwise you either miss the spot where it was parked, or have to mess around moving it.
  8. RonWin

    RonWin Senior Member
    Messages: 106

    So what do you do for those accounts that want to be out by 7 am for work and hold a contract with you? Yet the snow wont stop until 11 am and still has another 4" to dump? Are you going to clear twice?
  9. maxwellp

    maxwellp PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,123

    I do a quick opening pass followed later by a full cleaning. Plus I know the ones that will complain and the ones that have 4x4. As long as they can get in and out and it is cleaned up by the next day all is good. If I had to have them all done say in 2 hours I would not make any money.
  10. NThill93

    NThill93 Member
    Messages: 96

    Prioritize, I know who needs to get out and I plan accordingly. Its all about knowing your customers. I do agree that 10 hours on one truck is way too much.
  11. jhenderson9196

    jhenderson9196 Senior Member
    Messages: 615

    I have an 8-10 hour route. It's a rural community and ranges out 15 miles from home.Some drives up to 1/2 mile long. Every one of my customers has come to me. I've never solicited work.I charge a rate equal to $100 per hr, and do the best job I can. If it is a big storm, ( more than a foot) I'll bust them open part way through. They all understand how long it takes to do my route. I've told them all, if you have a problem and need to be out by a certain time, just let me know and I'll be there. No extra charge. Don't abuse the service. I'm also not afraid to dump complainers. Got rid of one this week. Will drop another at the end of
    the season. That will make room for for some of the folks I've turned down due to my dance card being full. Just be honest about the situation. Your good customers will thank you,the rest you can live without.
  12. 32vld

    32vld Senior Member
    from LI, NY
    Messages: 622

    Not everyone needs to be done first. So that gives flexiblity. Then you reverse the route. Those first last storm are now last.

    Though I always take care of the customers that want me everytime there is 1" of snow. Then the ones that pay well and have called me for years and never complain and want my level of service.

    You never will be able to make everyone happy. Though you do your best to make all as happy as you can.
  13. thelettuceman

    thelettuceman PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,218

    I tell my customers to call me when they want service. I explain that everyone has a different tolerance level and a different budget for snow. So for those that want service at 1 inch, I can do that but will not hear from most of the customers that I do at 6". So when I get the call, they get the approximate time that I will be there.

    When I send out an invoice it is because you called for the service. No misunderstanding about why I plowed your driveway with only 1 inch of snow.

    I do not do contracts.
  14. DodgeBlizzard

    DodgeBlizzard Senior Member
    Messages: 526

    You know what they say, good help is hard to find. A lot of homeowners have gone through multiple plow guys, sometimes even in the same winter season. So when they find a good / reliable plow guy, they are willing to wait, knowing we will definitely show. And their are little tricks to keeping a long route. Rotate your route. On one storm, start at the West end of town and work East. Next time, work East to West. This way you're not constantly late on the same customer. Helps keep them happy. But when it gets too long, just add another plow truck to your fleet. Or add a couple kids with their pick up truck (throw them gas money) and a blower. It's a cheap investment and helps speed up time.
  15. Antlerart06

    Antlerart06 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,437

    I agree with you 10 hrs is to long But it happens a lot
    My route was 8hrs but after adding one more lot in Jan Its back to 10hrs per rig I run 5 plow rigs = to a 50 hr route if one truck did it

    The route can be up 15-20 per rig depending when the snow starts and ends
    I always plow during the storm during the day time
  16. xjoedirt55x

    xjoedirt55x Senior Member
    Messages: 104

    A lot is about different customers being different priority. Some are top priority, and need to be cleared every so often, some just need their drive or lot cleared within a day and it is no big deal. When you are out giving bids and writing contracts, keep that in mind and keep a fair balance of high and low priority jobs, and spell it out with the customer up front.
  17. bosman

    bosman Senior Member
    Messages: 165

    My route can take up to 12 hours on a small storm. Commercial properties almost always get done first, we typically don't start drives until 7-8 hours after snow stops. Most drives we do are for my lawn care customers, most for more than 10 years. I don't have any complaints anymore about how long it takes me to get to them, they know we'll be there. Since the drives are done last, I don't charge what some around here charge, sometimes way less than half. Cheapest drive we do is $30, that may be considered low balling to some on here, but I don't care. Others on here with seasonals would probably love to get that every visit, especially this year. Route is alternated every storm, last one done for one storm gets done first next time.

    If I only worked for 2-2.5 hours every time it snowed I'd have to go get a "real job." I mean seriously two hours, how do you stay in business? I don't give anyone an option of paying more to be done first, I treat everyone the same. Millionaires get treated the same as the 90 year old widow on fixed income. It is what it is and if they don't like it they can always find someone else to do the job. Be honest with them when they hire you, and don't give them anything to complain about.
  18. BUFF

    BUFF PlowSite Fanatic
    from FR NoCo
    Messages: 9,069

    A mix of customers (Resi, Commercial, Church, Daycare) along with different triggers (1",2" and 4") is what I've found works for me.
    Resi's get hit in the early am and if needed again mid-late afternoon.
    Commercial and Daycare are done by 7am, throughout the day clear the lanes and full plow after 6pm.
    Church is last unless it's the weekend.
    My route is 7hrs, I run 1 truck and have a shovel guy that drives himself, I just plow.
    It's take time to build a good mix of customers and route.
    Whatever you do don't be foolish and get in over your head.
  19. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,237

    The only way my routes end up being 10 hours is if we get over 12" of snow.

    No way that would fly around here. At least not with my clients.
  20. maelawncare

    maelawncare Senior Member
    Messages: 871

    Takes 12hrs for my 3 trucks and 1 skid to get through once. They key is have lots that have different openings. I only do 1 residential so its different for me. Have 2 open 24/7 a few that need cleared by 6:30 then 7 then 8 then 9 then 10. And of course half of them are closed over the weekends so I always pray for a Friday night storm.

    Usually a during the day storm we just try to make sure the drive lanes are open. A lot of people will go home early, then once the places are clear we do a complete plow over night. Complete plow is 12hrs. So depending on the storm, 1.5 plows each site.