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What would you do???

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Joel B., Jun 4, 2002.

  1. Joel B.

    Joel B. Senior Member
    from MN
    Messages: 233

    How would you handle this situation? The forecast is for 6" of snow and your accounts have a 2" trigger depth. Do you:

    A) Plow each time the depth hits 2" (3 times).


    B) Wait until the snow stops and plow once.

    I'm sure some people would complain if you let the snow pile up when they have a 2" trigger, BUT would they complain more if you charged them for 3 pushes when you could have done it in 1?
    Maybe I'm just not understanding this whole "trigger depth" thing.

    Thanks for all the help,

    Joel B.
  2. Mick

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

    It depends on the customer's wishes. Usually, I would push once and charge for once. The trigger is simply a depth at which you will not plow below. Say the trigger is 2" and it snows 6" - your equipment will generally handle 6" so why plow any less unless the customer specifies? On the other hand, I specify a charge for the trigger to a specific depth (6-8" usually), then charge half again for that depth up to, say, 12" and specify that I won't push over 12" so I'm at least plowing every 12". This is how I get around plowing for people who want to "just wait till it's over" then try to just pay the single push rate. The first year, I got snookered into plowing 14" for what I would have charged for 3". Just say I (usually) learn not to make the same mistake twice :mad: .

    Hope this helped. Everybody does different and markets vary in practice so I imagine you'll hear from others.
  3. gmshortbox

    gmshortbox Junior Member
    from Mi.
    Messages: 6

    Mick said it all.That's what I was going to right.Do what he said and you will do just fine.Good Luck
  4. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    I work very similarly to Mick, I charge full rate for the first visit up to 6" regardless of the trigger, and then 1/2 cost for each subsequent visit for each additional 6". This applies to residential accounts.

    On commercial accounts, you plow by contract rule, whatever amount is pre-arranged not to be exceeded during business hours. I charge full price for each visit in these cases because it takes the full amount of time to clear with each visit.

    "Trigger depth" is the mininum amount of snow established where your customer needs service. A 2" trigger depth does not neccessarily mean your customer needs plowed at every 2", but that they want service at every event of 2" or more. I set limits of 6" with my customers to speed service and reduce wear and tear on my truck (and myself), for example, a 16" storm, I'd plow at 6", again at 12" and clean up when the storm is over and bill for 2 full visits.
  5. Garagekeeper

    Garagekeeper Senior Member
    Messages: 459

    Well to answer the question we would start plowing our accounts at or around the time 3 inches of snow had fallen during a storm. And then replow again as the snow system has passed or as needed. Our base rate is for 2 to 5 inches. As we all know it's much easier to plow with the storm than to let it build up, and our customers seem to like that their drives are "maintained" rather that just plowed after the snow has passed. Rates doubles after 5 inches of snow has fallen so with a 6 inch snow fall we bill for two plowings anyway. Our rates keep increasing as heavier snow accumilations occur.
  6. Chuck Smith

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

    Pelican summed it up. Commercial differs quite a bit from residential. Commercial contracts differ, even in the same market. Markets differ greatly. Here in NJ, plowing of commercial sites is done basically every 2" of accumulation, with the salter following behind. So each 2" plowing also generates a salting (of the laneways, aisles, entrances, and exits). This cycle continues until the end of the storm. If it is not during business hours, then the snow response plan (SRP) changes again. Not many businesses that are open here during a snow event will tolerate a 4" accumulation on their lot and walks.

    Residential differs as well. Most will let you wait until a storm is over to come and plow when the total is forecasted to be 6" or less. Higher end accounts, steep driveways, and the elderly want multiple plowings during a 6" event. Typically once at 4" and a return visit after the snow stops. (I personally offered discounts to the elderly, which is another topic in itself).

    Naturally a customer with a steep driveway wants to be able to get in to park during a snow event. The elderly often worry about ambulance access during a storm in the event of an emergency. The higher end accounts are often fanatics, and want to see you come more than once on a 6" storm. The ABSOLUTE MOST IMPORTANT point, is to find out what the customer expects BEFORE you take on a new account, be it commercial or residential. There are also seasonal contracts, and per push contracts, another can of worms. Do a search here on PlowSite.

    In some markets, 4" of snow on the ground is a normal occurrence, and people are used to it.

    Call me foolish, but no matter what the specs, I always plowed once at 4", and returned to clean up at the end, unless say 12" is forecasted. In that case, I would plow each site 3 times. I never had any complaints from any of my accounts, and never lost a customer due to "poor service". There is something about a new customer calling you, saying "I want my property to look like that one you plow across the street". That tells you that you are doing a great job, and people are taking notice. The usual comment is "My guy doesn't show up until the end of the storm".

    In some cases, waiting until the end is a sure way to lose customers fast. But again, and I stress this, in some markets, 4" on the ground is a normalcy during snow events. Also, in some markets, de-icer applications are rare on commercial accounts until the end of a storm.

    Here in NJ, you can expect a lawsuit if a person slips and falls on a notebook page sized patch of ice, and that lawsuit will come 2 years after you plowed, so keep VERY DETAILED records of each event.

    I create a 3 ring binder that contains the snow response plan for each site, forms and checklists, site maps designating drains and snow storage areas, along with heating oil tank fill locations, and other obstacles such as speed bumps. Staking these obstacles is also very common. The system I use is yellow tipped stakes mark speed bumps, red tipped stakes mark fire hydrant and fire department connections, and unpainted stakes mark curblines. A green tipped stake out in the lawn would be used to mark a heating oil tank fill location. This is a big one... imagine trying to find an oil fill on a lawn, when there is 4' of snow on the ground, and they are about to run out of oil and have no heat.

    You might consider joining SIMA, as much of this information is shared freely amongst members. The training videos SIMA offers are well worth the cost. You might also consider purchasing a Snowplowing Handbook. My book, The Snowplowing Handbook (which is currently being updated and expanded) was written to help those that are new to plowing. Look for an updated and expanded version which should be completed by October 2002.


    Remember, anyone can plow snow, it's those that are educated that can really profit from it. I said it before, do a search here on PowSite. Spend hours searching and reading, and you will be miles ahead of many others in the business.

  7. Chuck Smith

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

    I just wanted to add that you can find some sample site diagrams on my web site. The link to it is in my signature below, and at the top of this page (Snowplowing Contractors Network).

  8. Chuck Smith

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

    And finally, when I write a Snow Response Plan (SRP) for a site, I also translate it into to Spanish, so everyone working the site knows what to do at the site. Remember, everyone working a site must be in constant communication with all equipment, even shovel / blower crews. In this day and age, there is no reason to let any language barrier get in the way of doing a proper effecient, safe, job.