21 Tips from Snow Plow Veterans
We scoured the internet to find real-world tips from actual snow plow veterans. Why make avoidable mistakes when you have plenty of enterprising snowplow operators giving their hard-earned advice online to anyone interested?
Our tips are compiled into 4 categories, from the property you plow on, the vehicle you drive, the expertise you need to plow successfully, to the continued growth of your business. With these tips under your sleeve, you’ll be well on your way to being the best snow and ice removal business in your region.
Understanding the Terrain
You don’t want to just rush into snow plowing, especially with a new client. Instead, you should take to understand their property. Plow veterans weigh in on this process.
Map Your Lots
Operators recommend that you make a map of every lot you aim to plow. Take photos with your smartphone so you can take a visual home with you.
Plan Your Attack
You took some photos, right? Another operator recommends printing them out and drawing arrows on them to plan the way you’ll be pushing snow.
Do Dry Runs With Your Snow Plow
With permission from your client, practice driving to their property and do it all with your plow engaged. After a dry run, you’ll be able to plow their property with more confidence than if it was your first time.
Practice Putting Your Blade on in the Snow
This is similar to a dry run. The next time it’s snowing, go outside and practice putting your plow blade on. You’ll never know what the conditions will be when you run into plow trouble, so understanding the process front-to-back is key.
Understanding Your Plow Truck
Your vehicle is your lifeline to your business. If it becomes unreliable, then you’ll quickly lose the confidence of your clients. A few veteran operators share some often-missed maintenance tips.
Come to a Complete Stop Before Shifting Gears
When you shift into either reverse or drive make sure you come to a complete stop. Shifting these gears while still moving will wear out your transmission prematurely.
Invest in a Transmission Cooler
Trucks with plows will run hot; they have added weight to them and use a lot of torque and horsepower to push snow out of the way. A transmission cooler fits onto the front of your grill and radiates heat away from your engine.
Grease Up Your Plow so Snow Doesn’t Stick
Apply spray-on non-stick oil (like PAM) or silicon spray to the exterior of your truck. Snow and ice will slide right off.
Change Your Transmission Fluid Every Year
As you might expect, your transmission gets a lot of use when your truck is used to plow snow. Even if your owner’s manual doesn’t mention it, replace your transmission fluid every year you’re in operation. Plow operators say this will keep your truck going strong for much longer.
Always Keeps Your Toolbox & Spare Parts with You
Be prepared for the worst so when it happens you have everything you need to overcome the obstacle. Keep your toolbox and spare parts with you, so when the time comes, you can fix truck trouble when time is of the essence.
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Building Snow Plowing Expertise
Snowplowing can be straightforward, but snow plowing well takes knowledge and experience. As you continue to plow, you must strive to become better and more efficient. Plow operators offer up a few key tips to get you there.
Slow & Steady Wins the Race
Don’t rush a job. A job done right only needs to be done once. If you’re too fast, your quality will suffer along with your reputation.
What You Can’t See Will Hurt You
If you can’t see a property edge, don’t assume you know where it is even if the property owner is telling you. Property damage is no joke and if you can’t see where you’re plowing, then you have no idea what you could hit.
Mark All Edges, Obstacles, and Hazards
With that said, mark all edges, obstacles, and hazards with tall, high-visibility property markers. Once marked, you can continually plow that property with the confidence that you know exactly where to go and what to avoid.
Own Up to Your Mistakes
If you do make a mistake and cause some damage, then immediately own up to it. Your credibility is more valuable than any damage you’ve done in a plowing accident.
Learn to Move Snow with as Few Passes as Possible
Treat plowing like a game; how can you avoid plowing the same areas as much as possible? Take a look at the photos you took, draw those arrows as we mentioned earlier, and find a way to plow your client’s properties with little overlap; you’ll save time, increase bandwidth, and make more money.
Don’t Apply Product to Brick
Avoid using any kind of rock salt, ice-melt, or deicer on brick. Mortar is a fragile material and can be eroded easily.
Growing Your Snow Removal Business
The expansion of your business is necessary for you to continue to sustain yourself (and employees if you have them) year after year. Luckily, there are many operators on the internet with successful operations that are willing to provide business advice based on their experience.
Start Small, Grow Slow
One operator recommends that you start small and grow incrementally. That makes a lot of sense. No one wants to suffer from “growing pains” in the middle of a season when clients depend on them. Grow as much as you think you can at the moment and, after a while, you’ll be amazed by how big you’ve become.
Don’t Undercut Yourself
Find a reasonable rate to charge that is appropriate to your region. Don’t be the cheapest plow business and don’t be the most expensive. Hustling for a bottom-of-the-barrel rate doesn’t make any sense. As one operator puts it, you’re better off with a few higher-paying contracts than a bunch of low-paying ones.
Avoid Spreading Yourself Thin
Don’t be afraid to hire employees once your business gets going. Spreading yourself thin will mean a decreased ability to deliver the quality that made you so desirable in the first place. Worst of all, it might burn you out completely from the idea of owning a business.
Tighten Your Route
Take a critical look at your plow route and find a way to tighten it as much as possible. Time and gas both cost you money, so the shortest distance between your clients will benefit you in more ways than you might imagine.
Stick to the Truck
Many operators swear against the shovel and the blower. Working with these tools is simply too inefficient to be lucrative. Leave those tools to the neighborhood kids trying to make a quick buck.
Invest in a Tractor as Soon as You Can
A truck is a great plow when there’s a skilled operator behind the wheel. However, a lot of operators attribute great success to the moment they were finally able to invest in a tractor. Some even consider it to be 10 times as efficient as a truck, allowing you to finish jobs faster and get on to the next one.
Use Everything You Have & Keep an Open Mind
As a business owner, it’s important to use every resource at your disposal, especially if you’re just starting. Most of all, work smarter rather than harder. Once you’ve mastered the art of strategic resourcefulness, don’t forget to keep an open mind; you’ll never learn what you think you already know.