The pandemic has disrupted every industry imaginable, and business owners struggle to return to normal. Business owners who run snow and ice removal companies are part of this shift in economic, social, and environmental conditions.
As the winter season continues with snowy, icy conditions, the demand for snow removal is back and stronger than ever. Not only is snow removal essential to everyone’s safety, but it is also part of environmental efforts in many neighborhoods. If you’re a snow removal company, consider the following snow removal industry trends as the temperatures continue to drop and the snow continues to fall.
Increasingly Unstable Weather
It’s only natural for Mother Nature to ebb and flow throughout the seasons, but this is especially the case in some country regions. The Midwest is known for its brutal winters, and states such as Wisconsin and Minnesota often take the brunt of the bad weather. In fact, as the Farmer’s Almanac predicted, the 2021-2022 winter season in the Midwest is particularly cold and dry.
But many snow removal companies throughout the Midwest see more shifts in weather patterns than ever before. A Snow Business survey found that 66% of respondents noted changes in winter weather patterns are typical for their market, with 39% noting an increase in ice or mixed precipitation.
The scientific data points to the fact that the average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere have warmed over the past 100 years, with the rate of warming only escalating. Even though the atmosphere is cold enough to produce snow, the warmer air holds onto moisture which produces more snow. This is where the increased instability kicks in.
Looking ahead, expect more weather variability, particularly in the lower Midwest, southern Appalachia, and even parts of the southeastern U.S.
One of the most difficult aspects of running any type of business is finding and retaining high-quality employees. Without hardworking, reliable employees to help remove snow and ice on bad weather days, how will your business remain afloat? This labor shortage problem is exacerbated, given the longstanding impacts of the global pandemic. If you’re noticing that fewer applicants are reaching out about snow and ice removal positions, know that you are not alone in this frustration!
Snow and ice management is significantly easier with the right team of workers on your side. But the labor shortages haven’t only been happening as a result of the pandemic. Since 2010, the labor market has been tight, especially as Baby Boomers begin to age out of the workforce and retire. The current unemployment rate is 5.1%, with 8 million people out of work and 11 million jobs available. On top of this, the pandemic adds more pressure to this decade-long trend, leaving many snow clearing contractors and snow plowing businesses struggling to keep up with demand.
There are some companies that are missing up to half of their current workforce which is bad timing considering the winter season that’s currently upon us. Many other contractors and operations are hoping to fill at least 20% of their operations to keep business successful as another calendar year kicks off. Some companies are even increasing their rates or knocking down other barriers to entry to entice more people to join their teams.
Newest Technology & Equipment
Let’s face it; the most successful snow removal companies often have access to the best technology and equipment to make their jobs more accessible and more efficient. As removing snow from both residential and commercial properties is heavy and laborious, having access to the right tools and equipment can make the heavy lifting that much easier. Don’t forget about the strategy involved in running a successful snow removal company, as there is much more to it than simply responding to incoming requests.
Consider the snow and ice equipment, snow removal software, communication tools, and other facets of running your business that are currently in place. If you’re noticing lags or inefficiencies, don’t be afraid to invest in new tools and training to make your life on the job that much easier.
For example, mobile technology, GPS equipment for trucks, and automated winter equipment can make or break how your snow removal season goes. Many companies also use automated billing and invoicing to make that portion of their business easier. As your competitors may already be one step ahead in this investment, you can set yourself up to remain competitive by equipping your staff with the newest technology and equipment.
Another snow removal industry trend is the emphasis on sustainable practices. Many organizations are now turning their companies into environmentally-friendly models on behalf of their clients. As many clients consist of property owners and managers, clients are increasingly interested in following SWIM guidelines, NGOs, and water quality initiatives, meaning the salt chloride levels need to decrease.
Environmental concerns will only continue to increase in the future, leading to a decline in the use of traditional deicers. Instead, contractors treat rock salt with liquid deicers, which ultimately puts fewer chlorides into the environment.
Sustainable practices are also reaching the state level. For example, in New York, the state passed its first version of a law on road salt usage and even formed a task force dedicated to road salt reduction. Many other states have implemented legislation preventing property owners and managers from transferring liability to hired contractors, making them solely responsible for their business practices.
Did you know that there are rock salt shortages that can impact snow removal businesses like yours? Private snow and ice management companies don’t often get first pick at the salt supply, with governmental entities usually receiving first access. In the last several years, the salt supply has constricted and the demand has increased, resulting in steeper prices. Because there is so much uncertainty in salt supply and demand, the private snow industry as a whole needs to be proactive in how the supply chain has been impacted.
Here are a few ways to do so:
- Initiate the sale procurement process earlier
- Establish a network of suppliers on which you can rely. This may require a bigger up-front investment and stored materials
- Plan ahead and for the worst, communicate with clients proactively
- Be prepared to pay a premium if you need salt during a particularly snow-heavy time of year
- Focus on the proper equipment calibration which can lead to less salt waste
- Use anti-icing strategies to reduce salt waste while improving overall performance and efficiency
By planning ahead and being proactive, you can minimize the effects of the salt shortage on your snow plowing business.
The Rise of Liquid Deicing
Due to constraints surrounding the salt supply, snow removal contractors are forced to use other enticing strategies to tackle their toughest jobs. It’s a common misconception that liquid deicers don’t work and should be avoided. But as contractors continue to educate themselves on the science behind these methods, they realize the power of liquid deicers. It’s always best to stay one step ahead of the storm for contractors to provide better overall service while being mindful of their limited salt supply.
While spreading treated rock is a common way to deice properties, it may also be used before inclement weather hits to mitigate bond formation at lower surface temperatures. The use of refined rock salt cannot achieve this. Pre-wetting a solid material with liquid is also a way to increase the effectiveness of liquid deicing, plus it uses less product this way. Finally, Direct Liquid Application (DLA) aka, salt brine, can be applied directly to the surface to prevent bonds from forming, but only if you have access to the proper training and equipment to execute the process successfully.
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It’s not always easy to find the best salt and liquid deicers on the market, but Ninja Deicer has incredibly effective products. We see all of our clients as partners and strive to take the stress out of your “salt game,” allowing you to focus on other pressing areas of your business. Get a quote to learn more about how we can help!