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what to look for in a plow contractor?

Discussion in 'Residential Snow Removal' started by jason1083, Feb 4, 2008.

  1. jason1083

    jason1083 Junior Member
    Messages: 14

    We are a neighborhood association looking for a new plow contractor for our streets. I have been sending out RFP's to local outfits big and small.

    anyhow here is what I asked for:
    1) A proposal describing your qualifications and what equipment will be utilized in carrying out the task (please specify quantities).
    2) A firm schedule of fees that will be incurred
    3) A listing of equipment you have on hand.
    4) Anticipated response time after a qualifying snow event
    5) Estimated time to complete the task

    I am after any additional questions to ask or general tips so I can hopefully make a good choice from the ones that respond.
  2. bribrius

    bribrius PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,609

    years in business under the current name. key here being current name. wether they be a contractor, landscaper whatever.
    the jokers usually dont last more than a few years. i also wouldnt judge them by their equipment. make sure they have access to what they need to do the job but realize the most honest could be the one with the lesser of equipment. long as they can do the job. make sure they aren't over extending themselves either so they cant service you adequatley because of too many other customers. also limit use of subs. make it clear you are hiring them not someone else. sure others here will have more info.
  3. Camden

    Camden PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,604

    You're going to want proof of sufficient insurance. Basic auto insurance is NOT enough. You want the contractor to have a general liability policy with limits that you're comfortable with.
  4. Mick

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

    In addition to this - Make sure the type of policy they have will cover your premises. Apartments, condos etc can get tricky when it comes to insurance. For instance, with my "Residential" policy, I could plow an apartment building with no more than three units (to include the manager's living unit). If there is any doubt, ask for WRITTEN clarification from the insurance agent.

    When it comes to salting for ice control and setting trigger depths, remember - You get what you pay for. Maybe this is from another thread, but build-up of 8" - 10" in an apartment complex is totally unacceptable. But, you have to be willing to pay for a higher level of service. Also, $110 a ton for salt sounds very reasonable.

    I think you may want to reconsider replacing your current contractor and have a meeting with them. They may simply be trying to deal with the restrictions you're putting on them.
  5. jason1083

    jason1083 Junior Member
    Messages: 14

    to clarify no apartments or condos, we are just a non profit (donation funded). The city of detroit does not plow residential streets till more than 6" (for years they did not plow at all, then in 1999 we had about 12" and the mayor at the time ended up in the hot seat when the school buses got stuck). Its all individually owned houses and we are basically just a group dedicated to trying to improve our neighborhood. I will have to check with someone who knows about insurance, we have 1268 houses and the city owns the streets (they don't really care what we do as long as it does not cost them money).
  6. Mick

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

    Your last line was the real kicker. This is a municipally owned street (the city). Believe me - they care. The city is liable for damages occurring thereon. No snowplow guy will (or should) plow it without MUNICIPAL insurance coverage and a contract between them and the city. You nor any other private person can contract (even verbally) for services. Anybody taking on this job would be foolish,as well as voiding thier insurance. Especially with that many residents, the potential for risk would be astounding.

    That's why you haven't been able to get a credible snow management company.

    We finally have that piece that's been missing.
  7. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,644

    If the job gets done, it should not matter who is plowing.

    The very first question you want answered is a list of references and ask them if the contract has been upheld, everyone has a bad day - trucks break, employees don't show, extreme weather, so how did the contractor handle the situation? Did he make changes so in the future the same wouldn't happen, did he inform you of a situation, was he contactable?

    Can you reach the contractor 24/7 or do you just get voice mail?

    Can the contractor return to service the account in the same event within a reasonable amount of time? IE 4-6 hours.

    The answers to those questions should provide you with proof their reliability, whether they will be enduring and how proactive they can be to the ever changing (challenging) scenarios.

    On the business end you want to ask your lawyer what kind of insurance is needed for your situation and if the bidding company has that type, also what kind of billing arrangement will be setup.

    Lastly, have a meeting with the contractor and provide them with a list of expectations and they in turn can present you with options on how to meet those and at what cost. Both party's must be flexible for a lasting relationship and no one side to get upset.

    AS A CONTRACTOR, My first question to you would be do you ask for bids every season, if you say yes- I say good bye. I look for loyalty, and in return I do more IE keep costs same from season to season, do free clean-ups.

    Finale note: yes it is our choice to do this business, but please keep in the back of your mind that from Nov to Apr we are on-call 24/7 often times we have to keep getting up every hour and check the weather because some weather guy said it might snow, insurance is sky high and everything about our business involves steel that costs alot and rusts, plowing and salting is hard on equipment and needs constant upkeep, so if someone gives you a cheep price, they won't be in it for long and don't know how to run a business.

    REAPER 2000 Club Member
    from 60050
    Messages: 2,230

    Seriously Mick if you ever have a free vacation and want to see what the definition o a cluster fudge is, cruise on over to Detroit after a 4-6 inch storm.

    You are right about no reputable company taking it on.

    But you would not believe the number of guys over there that will blast through /down/over any thing or any street.

    And they will do it "cheap".

    I would even bet this is one of the better parts of town.

    You should see how it is done inner city over there. :dizzy:

    What I would suggest for this group is put your monies together and buy your own plow truck and let each do their own part.

    Yes I know that would never work but getting a properly insured company to do it just is not going to happen for the very reasons you state. (Mick)

    That will not mean one of the owners or employees will take it as a "side job" and when something happens it will be on the city and no one will own up to the damage done.

    Tax payers will "fix: it in spring...........................maybe.

    I believe this is a job for Snake Plissken
  9. Mick

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

    I'd imagine you're right about that - and that's why I live where I do. I don't have to put up with the craziness I see on the news.

    An aerial view of my house/garage:

  10. jason1083

    jason1083 Junior Member
    Messages: 14

    we do not ask for bids every season. This current guy came into the picture in 1999 when another contractor failed to meet their obligations so from what I understand the parting was mutual

    I have no problem discussing things and working things out with the current contractor. There have been a few issues that arose this year (pertaining to missed streets and an overcharge), so we are looking just in case things do not work out.
  11. SteveJ

    SteveJ Senior Member
    Messages: 141

    Everyone had good replies here, so I'll add one they all forgot... a BIG :D
  12. kcplowmata

    kcplowmata Senior Member
    from kc
    Messages: 174

    A Snowplow
  13. basher

    basher PlowSite Fanatic
    from 19707
    Messages: 8,993

    That depends on location. Here the state wants us to plow the roads. The civic assc. all turn their roadways over to the state for maintenance then contract for their own snow removal and apply to the state for reimbursement.

    Also (here) you are covered by what is called the "good Samaritan" act which is basically a "hold harmless" statue that also covers Volunteer firefighters.

    The liability for non state owned roads is the issue around here.

    So you might want to check the laws of your state.

    The biggest issue with keeping a reputable contractor could be your residents. We dropped one development last winter due to the residents actions. the civic assc. contact keep telling me all was fine but when someone would call him with a complaint he'd give them my number and tell them to call me. We would get calls complaining about snow discharged in the ends of drives, complaints about salting, not salting, noise, not having a truck on site pushing from start to stop(40 home development.) one guy even called and threaten my wife with what he'd do to the next truck that put any snow in his drive. the list goes on it seems every one was complaining about something and they all had different complaints, just wasn't worth it. So if 2% of your 1200+ homes called me direct you can be sure I'd not be there next year.