Back to the Basics: How to Plow Snow
One might think that everyone who needs to, knows how to plow snow. All you’re doing is digging into and pushing snow away from the road or driveway. Plowing snow is crucial to surviving the winter months. Snow plows keep your city streets, roads and driveways safe and snow free.
It is important to plow snow and ice correctly though. An improper plowing technique can lead to more work, damage your vehicle, or upset your client. If you’re not doing a thorough job, then you’ll see how word gets around about your service.
It’s such a basic process that some people never took the time to understand it. Other times, we need a refresher after years of snow removal. It’s funny how we can remember best practices wrong or even forget them. Whatever the case, an improper snow plow technique does no one any favors. Let’s take a moment to go back to the basics.
Use the Right Blade for the Job
Whether you know how to plow snow with a truck or ATV, you’ll want to the appropriate blade. While many plow blades are steel, you should consider alternative options as well. Steel is a durable and heavy material that’ll make easy work out of even the snowiest conditions. While it performs well, you may want to investigate a polyethylene plow blade.
In the industry, we call these blades “poly cutting edges”. They can be as durable as a steel blade when used right. Furthermore, a poly edge is made from a super smooth material. This allows the collected snow to roll right off the blade and away from the truck. While a steel blade will outlast a poly blade with proper maintenance, a poly blade is an innovative way to plow.
Maintain Your Plow & Vehicle
As with any vehicle, proper maintenance is key. Follow this basic maintenance checklist or make your own:
1. Check your fluids, hoses, and belts at the start and end of every season
2. Inspect your blade weekly for cracked or other aberrations. Repair these before they get worse.
3. Sharpen your blade weekly
4. Wash your vehicle weekly to remove salt
5. Do not operate your plow at speeds above 20 mph
6. Do not operate your vehicle, with or without plow engaged, in speeds above 45 mph
Plow with the Storm, Not After the Storm
If you’re plowing after a snowstorm has blown through, then you’re already too late. A blizzard will produce inches of snow which compacts making it almost impossible for plows to move it. Snow and ice removal will halt if you don’t keep up with it.
Instead of waiting, you’ll want to plow with the storm. Plowing after the first 4 inches will make your job easier and make your clients happy during tough winter weather.
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When Needed, Change Your Style for High Snow
Sometimes we can’t get out in front of a blizzard. We’re left with ignoring clients or making the best out of a bad situation. We still need to head out there and do our best and please clients who are dealing with heavy snow.
When dealing with heavy snowfall, raise your plow as much as you can to trim off the top layer of snow. From there, allow your edge to float and make continued pass-through over the same area. You’ll find that you’re removing layers and layers of compacted snow. Eventually, you’ll be left with a thin enough layer that you can adjust your blade and plow it all away. Be sure to remember that slow and steady will provide you more success in thick snow.
Angle Your Blade for Optimum Snow Migration
Angling your blade is an important part of how to plow snow. Keeping your plow blade straight is going to cause undue wear and tear on both your blade and the vehicle. The last thing you want to do is to angle your blade in a way that snow collects around it. Instead, angle it either to the right or left, as steeply as you can manage. This will move the snow you collect away from the blade and out from your path. Doing so will create a wide berth of open space while giving the mountain of snow you’re pushing up a place to go. Your truck might be tough, but it’s going to feel the tremendous weight of a mountain of snow in front of your plow.
Understand Your Local Ordinances
Local ordinances are there for a reason and they will be upheld by the law. If you’re found in violation of a local ordinance, then you’re liable for hefty fines. Yet, who will be the first one the law contacts if they see improper snow placement? Unfortunately, the property owner will be the first to get chewed out before your name is mentioned. There’s no reason to lose a customer and to pay a fine because you didn’t follow the law.
For instance, many counties require you to clear snow on the property in which you plowed it. If you’re pushing snow from a client’s driveway, then that snow can’t go onto the street or the property adjacent. You’ll need to plow it from the drive and then plow it from the street onto their front yard. It may seem trivial, but this is the kind of knowledge that will set you apart from your competition. Knowing local ordinance tells people you’re as thorough as you are hardworking.
Knowing How to Plow Snow can Make or Break a Business
A thorough understanding of how to plow snow can serve to make or break your business. You may get lucky with an off-the-cuff attitude toward plowing for a while. Eventually, you’ll find yourself hitting a snag that good luck and intuition will be unable to free you of. Whether you’re using plow trucks, an ATV, or even plowing with a tractor, these fundamentals stay the same.
Instead of going forth blindly, understand the fundamentals of sound snow plowing. While the job is full of improvisation and adaptation, it’s one grounded in a methodology. Sharing this method ensures we’re comprehensive and safe about the way we plow.