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rookie mistakes

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by illday, Oct 16, 2003.

  1. illday

    illday Junior Member
    from RI
    Messages: 9

    I am a landscaper by trade and have never snowplowed. (this will be my 1st year)
    I have used the search engine on this site and it has
    answered most of my questions. Here are a remaining questions
    that I couldn't find answers for.

    Seeing how it's my 1st season snowplowing and I only plan on
    doing residential driveways. How many driveways should I
    be able to plow per snowfall? I don't want to take on more
    work than I can handle.

    I have found some great sample contracts on this site
    that feature a base price that increase per inches of
    snowfall. What is a typical base price for a single car driveway
    and a double car driveway?

    Originally I planned on charging a base price for unlimited
    pushes per a 24 hour period on driveways. Will this work out?
    I've never done this so I don't want to make any mistakes
    bidding accounts. I especially don't want to lose lawn accounts
    because my plow prices are too high. (a good # of my accounts
    are elderly and can pinch a penny)

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
  2. CPSS

    CPSS Senior Member
    Messages: 334

    "Originally I planned on charging a base price for unlimited
    pushes per a 24 hour period on driveways. Will this work out?
    I've never done this so I don't want to make any mistakes

    I think you could be opening yourself up to a real problem with this approach. What if there is a big storm, say 2 feet of snow over a 24 hour period. You can't just wait till it stops snowing and plow it once. Even if the customer didn't mind, it could take a long time to plow 2' of snow off even one driveway. Most residential customers would want to be plowed early in the AM to get to work, late in the afternoon to get home, maybe early afternoon for the kids to get home, how about late morning so wifey could make it out to the market? Get the point?

    Regarding pricing... it really varies around the country. When we first started out we did a lot of driveways at $25 each. Now the average price around here is $30-$40. Don't undercut the price. It's better to have a few customers at a higher price, than lots of customers at a low price.

    Last bit of advice I can think of ( we learned from our mistakes) ,don't spread yourself too thin geographically. We had some customers in the beginning that were a 30 min drive just to get there in good weather. Now all our customers are within a 10 mile radius.
  3. Mean4x4

    Mean4x4 Senior Member
    from Livonia
    Messages: 100

    how many can you push?

    I have all my drives within 20 minutes from my office. I can usually move 8-12 per hour with a guy to get out and shovel sidewalks. Thats under 5 inches of snow. If you're going to be doing a lot of residentials, Get a sno way With downforce (that way, you can backdrag the whole drive, instead of turning around and pushing it forward)
  4. illday

    illday Junior Member
    from RI
    Messages: 9

    Thanks for the responses. They were very helpful.

    Here's an equipment question.
    I 'm in the process of purchasing a 4x4 with a plow.
    (My regular work truck isn't 4 wheel drive)
    It's an 85 f250 flatbed with 4 way Fisher Plow.
    1. What is a 4 way plow?
    2. Do I need to weight down the back of the truck?
    3. I have also read on this sight not to use 4x4 unless you
    get stuck. Is this correct?
  5. cat320

    cat320 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,224

    #1 I would say it's a plow that goes up and down and left and right. Verses just going up and up and down with no power angle.

    #2 Most definatly have weight for the back.

    #3 I always use my 4 wd when plowing if i'm going from one job to another I take it out if the road is good.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2003
  6. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    2. I assume you've got an 8' plow on that 250. Yes, you'll need weight on the back. I've got a 3500 with a 9' and heavy duty flat bed. The plow practically lifts the dual wheels off the ground. Very poor traction without 4wd.

    3. I always use 4wd unless I'm on the roadway. And sometimes then, too (see #2).
  7. wxmn6

    wxmn6 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,037

    4 ways plow mean the plow have powered up, down, left, and right position, all controlled inside the truck cab. Four ways plow is the term people usually use when they are selling their plow because there are still some pretty old plows out there that only have powered raised and down position, but has manual angle. It mean that you will need to step out of truck, walk to the plow, pull the pin out, and push the blade to whatever direction you want to push the snow to, put the pin back in, step back in the cab and plow. And this whole process goes all over again.

    You will surely need some ballast in the rear. Minimum 500# of ballast. A sander can be substituted as a ballast but I don't think you are planning on getting one at this time.

    In almost all cases, I use 4WD when plowing. Why take chance? What if you hit a patch of hardpack or ice and your truck slide sideway and hit something? Talk about property damage you could cause because your truck simple was in 2WD. I use 4WD to get all the traction I could get, and to stay in much better control. However there is an exemption when using 4WD. Sometime in some really light snowfall events, depending on the condition, I can drive in 2WD.
  8. Adams plowing

    Adams plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 195

    Another thing to remember is if you have an overdrive off switch engage in so that you dont plow in od which can happen as the rpms go up with the resistance from the snow weight.

  9. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,317

    Aslo keep in mind that it has been my experience that senior citizens panic more as snow builds up in their driveways. 3" to them may as well be 3 feet. You will get calls about the mailman not being able to get to their front door, that they have doctor's appointments, that there is too much snow for the meter reader, the ambulance, or for their friends to come visit.

    If you want to charge a flat rate for a 24 hour period, then set increments, like 1- 4", over 4" - 8", or maybe 1 - 6", over 6" to 12", etc.... Your first year out, figure maybe 4 hours of plowing to complete the route. Residentials don't like to wait more than that to be plowed. Remember that if your route takes 8 hours to complete once, then someone is waiting 8 hours to be plowed for the first time. In heavy snowfalls, you can increase that to 10 hours or more....

    Figure if you keep your houses close together, you should be able to do 5 - 10 an hour, depending on the size.

  10. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    I would take a pass on the truck your looking at. It has the Twin Traction Beam (TTB) front suspension and they are prone to problems. Look for an F-350 with the solid front axle or another brand pickup.

    Have you considered sub-contracting? It's a great way to learn the business and build your own at the same time. You can avoid disappointing customers and developing a poor reputation by spending a season or two learning the ropes working for someone else.

    Messages: 63

    I tried plwing in 2wd last year just to see what would happen... It took about 20 seconds to decide that 4wd was definitely a must. Pelican has a good point. I plowed for an asphalt company my first year out. I was a little nervous just like yourself. It gave me a chance to test the waters, and learn from others. without taking on all of the responsibilities the first year. Now I have one large full service lot I take care of-then I sub contract for someone else after MY OBLIGATIONS are taken care of. Plowing isn't like lawn maintenance-it MUST get done in a timely manner. I want my customers to me happy and safe-don't over extend yourself.

    P.S. Don't get in a hurry, be cautious, and make some cash! I hope you'll enjoy plowing as much as I do with my old 82 F250.
  12. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    Simone, no trouble with your front axle? The one on my '81 broke in half during a storm.:mad:
  13. Luppy

    Luppy Senior Member
    Messages: 325

    Think smaller if you're only considering driveways

    I just wanted to add a couple of things. Now I know all the boys out here like to recommend those big, bad @zz trucks, but seriously, if you know you'll only be plowing driveways, I'd consider a smaller 4 x 4 with a smaller, lighter plow. You'll have a much easier time plowing residential with a smaller vehicle properly equipped.
    You'll have a ***** of a time in certain driveways with a big pickup and a heavy plow. Some of your landscape customers might end up being no more if you give their lawn the old "fruit roll up" as I call it. (when you catch the grass and it rolls up neatly like a fruit roll up) It's a very common thing for newbies to do, and even sometimes happens to those of us who've been plowing for years.
    Also, a smaller 4x is much more maneuverable when it comes to tight spots, circulars, and driveways with retaining walls, etc.

    We've been plowing residential for 15 years - my brother with a Chevy pickup & 8 FT Fisher - Me with Jeep CJ's and Wranglers with Meyer 6.5. For driveway plowing, my TJ can plow circles around my brothers truck.

    hope this helps you somewhat
  14. Adams plowing

    Adams plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 195

    I have to agree with luppy if your just doing drives smaller might be the better way to go. you can always plow bigger areas with a little smaller truck but ya cant plow little narrow driveways with a big truck and large blade in front plus with the flat bed the truck probaly has a longer wheelbase than a shortbed truck wouldnt be as easy to manuver in tight areas.

  15. BWhite

    BWhite Senior Member
    Messages: 496

    some advice

    Keep your route as tight as possible . It has taken me many years to get to a point where no customer is more than 3 miles away and I have to turn people away (unless I find someone new closer to my home base . Bill
  16. 90plow

    90plow Senior Member
    Messages: 739

    I'd suggest plowing for someone else first or start small like I did with a number of drives you know you can get done. You may not be making a whole lot of money, but the name of the game isn't always money at first espeacially if you've never plowed. Take on some neighbors and see how it goes.
  17. Big Nate's Plowing

    Big Nate's Plowing PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,266

    I have never seen or herd of stock ttb beams breaking, except for when timbrens are used with old(soft) springs. the timbrens act as a semi rigid bumpstop and dont allow much movement when bottomed out..... add semi rigid + shockload=something broken. I have seen radius arms break by the drivers side knuckle, and/or pull out of the rear mount if you back the front tire up & over a curb

    Messages: 63

    The front end had been completely rebuilt just a year or two before I bought my truck. I keep up on my maintenance really well, and so far it's been great. Only has to last me this winter and next-then I get a new one!!!:)
  19. Toby

    Toby Senior Member
    from NY
    Messages: 132

    Your first rookie mistake is trying to plow residential driveways (depending on size of course).

    Most res. drives w/garage fronts are better suited to hydraulic 2 stage or single stage blowers.
  20. Luppy

    Luppy Senior Member
    Messages: 325

    Not true Toby. I've been plowing residential with Jeeps for 15 years and find it quite fast and easy..Even my first rookie year wasn't too bad. That's why I recommended he get a smaller sized truck/setup.