November 21, 1999
Volume 1, Issue #02
Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter
This is my second Issue. I hope you enjoyed my first. I didn't get many responses from any of you. Which is a little disappointing. I really need to know what topics you'd like to read about. What you want to know more about.
Well, I've discussed deicers on my pages before. I hope you've all read it. There are new blends on the market, that look very promising. One I've been hearing quite a bit about is called "Magic - O". To quote my friend Dino, who is considering becoming a dealer for the stuff,
" Ice ban, or magic-0 type products are much more user and equipment friendly.
This season we have bought rock salt coated with magic-0. It is a corn based liquid mixed with mag chloride then sprayed on the rock salt. It removes the corrosiveness of the salt while letting work down to -10 degrees. It also jump starts the rock salt by dissolving it into a brine quicker. Pricing is very reasonable at about 5$ per bag. We also are looking into purchasing the material in bulk form for the v box spreaders. That will run about $60 a ton delivered."
It's supposedly a by product of the Beer and Soda making industry. The characteristics of this substance are interesting. It seems to cost as much as, or even less than rock salt. I'm considering trying it this year as well. I'm not too far from Dino, or his supplier, to consider picking it up myself. There are similar products under different names, that are in the same category as this one. They are definitely worth trying out, if they are available in your area.
It seems there are a few new companies offering polyurethane snow plow, and spreader parts. For spreaders, they sell poly hoppers, and spinners. This sounds like a good idea. They make cutting edges for snow plows out of poly now. They are supposedly much better than rubber edges. They don't have a memory like rubber. They are reversible too. When one side wears down, you unbolt it, flip the edge over, and bolt it back on. It reportedly won't stop your plow from tripping. I'm not sure if it's available for bottom trip plows, such as Fisher for example. There is another company, that is now making complete snowplow moldboards out of poly. This includes the cutting edge, which is part of the "blade". It has no trip mechanism at all. The poly takes the force, without the plow tripping. I'd hold off on buying one of these until they've been out for a while. I have visions of cracked polyurethane, is sub zero weather. I have a friend that punched a hole in a moldboard made of Lexan. Funny, the stuff is literally bulletproof glass, and a 2" x 4" punched a fist sized hole in the moldboard. The company sent a replacement moldboard free of charge. I heard of another guy hitting a stump in the snow have the same thing happen, and the company sent him a replacement moldboard free of charge as well. It's at least good to know that company stands behind their plows. I have heard recently, that Sno Way plows need reinforcing to stand up to commercial use. This was from a Sno Way user, who learned the hard way.
It's Supposed To Snow
It's supposed to snow, what should I be doing you ask? Well, there's a whole bunch of things. A lot depends on your obligations. If you plow commercial, or high maintenance accounts, residential only, and weather or not you apply deicers. Do you have deadlines for the completion of certain accounts?
For starters, watch the Weather Channel. Look carefully at the local radar. Observe the pattern of the precipitation. I feel this is the best way to see what is happening. Watch often, to keep up to date on expected snowfall amounts, intensity, temperatures, form of precip., and how long it's supposed to last. Other things to consider would be if the snow was going to come on a weekend, as opposed to a "work day". If it was a holiday. If the majority of the snowfall will be at night or not too. Plowing at night is always the best. No traffic, and no one to really bother you, or interrupt your job. Here's where having residential accounts with no cars in the driveway is a really good thing. You can get them done quickly.
At the first forecast of snow, make sure your plow is accessible. There will be no problems getting it mounted on your truck. Next, give your truck the "once over". Check the lights, blinkers, 4 way flashers, wipers, fluids, and plow hydraulic fluid. Go to the gas station, and fill up. Get gas in any cans you have for snowblowers. Be sure to fill the cans on the ground, and not in the back of the truck. Static electricity while filling can cause an explosion. Check your tire pressure. Get air if you need it while gassing up. Cold temperatures affect tire pressure. Clean out the interior. Put any extra gear you bring for plowing in the truck. Since the truck is warm now, from the trip to the gas station, now is a great time to clean the inside of all the windows. Hold off on loading shovels and snowblowers for now.
Go look at the weather Channel again. Check local station forecasts as well. Use all the info sources you can. Keep up to date. Timing is everything, as is being prepared. The Weather Channel, and the National Weather Service (on my links page) both have Doppler Radar online, very up to date. Be sure to refresh the pages when visiting often, to get the latest Radar imagery.
If it looks like the snow is a go, then call the troops. Tell all your guys what the situation is. Make sure everyone can work. Finding out at the last minute you're short one truck and driver, isn't fun. Assign duties, meeting places, and times. Tell everyone to load up, and get moving. If you perform Anti - Icing, you especially know how critical timing is. Put your plow on your truck now. Mount your tailgate salter, or slide in salter too, if you'll need it. Load salt, shovels, blowers, gas cans, and anything else. Make sure you have warm dry clothes too. Get out there, and survey your accounts. It's possible that some will need to be done, while others, even on the other side of town sometimes, don't need to be done. If you know your accounts well, and your area, you know what to be doing now.
I'll talk about Anti - Icing in the next Issue. We'll talk snow now. I generally make a pass at all my commercial accounts when the snow reaches a 2" depth, if they are open for business. If they are not, I won't plow at all yet. I don't plow my residential with only 2" on the ground, and still falling. If the total forecast calls for 4" I'll wait till the end, if possible, to plow everything. If the forecast called for 6", I'd still plow everything at 4". I believe on taking it easy on my truck, it's not a tank, though I think it is sometimes. Sure rides like one, when unladen! De - Icers is another lengthy area, which I'll talk about in these Newsletters in the next few Issues. Hopefully, you've all learned a lot from the links I sent about de - icers.
If a larger snowfall, say 12" is forecasted, I'd plow at 4', and again at about 8 or 10". I'd then gas up my truck, and any cans. Check my plows hydraulic fluid level too. I'd wait for the storm to end, and clean up the last 2" and any "scraps" left from earlier plowings. Open the driveways as wide as possible. The final step is to wait for the road plows to do their thing.
Then you can go over the walks again, and open the driveways too.
Layers are most important. Carry dry T shirts with you, or stop home and change during storms if possible. If the layer that's against your skin is damp, or soaked with sweat (like I usually am!) then you'll feel the cold faster. The wind chill is multiplied. At least it sure feels it. If the clothing against your skin is dry, you'll feel warmer. Gore-Tex is the best material for staying dry. There are gloves, boots, hats, pants, and jackets made with it. I've been wearing Gore -Tex lined boots for the past 10 years, and will buy no other. It's simply the only way to stay dry. Forget silicone impregnated leather. You will get wet. Water proof, water resistant, BS. Look for 100% Waterproof Gore-Tex, nothing else will keep you dry. I've tried them all, and Gore-Tex is it. I apply mink oil to my boots, to help protect them from the salt, which dries them out and causes the leather to crack. I wear a Gore-Tex lined hat, when it's very cold and windy, or rainy. Otherwise, I wear a ski cap, over a baseball hat. That way, I can remove the ski hat, to cool off if I want, and not feel such a bad chill on my bare head, ( no, I'm not bald!). A sweaty head really amplifies the cold. As much as 80% of your body's heat loss is through your head.
In case you're wondering what I wear, my "uniform" if you will, I'll tell you. I always wear my 9" Gore-Tex Thinsulate Leather Hunting boots. I wear Levi's 505 Jeans, a t shirt, an insulated flannel shirt, with a M-65 Field Coat (US Military Issue) with the optional liner over it. I spray the Field Coat with Scotch Guard to help repel water. If I get warm, I open the Field Coat. Really warm, I unbutton the flannel shirt. If the snow is melting, I remove the Field Coat, and just wear the flannel. I rarely wear gloves, as I hate shoveling with them on. If the wind chill is bad, I have to wear them, and they are Gore-Tex, and Thinsulate lined, with leather patches in the high wear areas of the palm. I also wear normal heavy leather work gloves, when loading & unloading salt, and mounting my plow on my truck.
What I Carry When Plowing
All sorts of stuff like :
First Aid kit
Bottle of eyewash (saline)
A pair of rubber insulated gloves (I LOVE these!)
Spare wool hat
Standard and metric socket sets, deep and shallow
Set of combination wrenches 5/16"- 1 1/4"
Slotted and Phillips screwdrivers
Two pairs of Vise Grips
Large and medium sized Channel-Loc pliers
Diagonal cutting pliers
Wire brushes (small and large)
Small piece of med. sandpaper-for cleaning connections
Small files (1 flat,1 round)
Sheetrock knife (cuts hoses quick)
Tin Snips (Wiss)
X Lug wrench
Makita cordless drill w/bits
Rivet gun w/assorted rivets (usually to fix shovels)
Small piece of tubing, that would allow bypassing the heater core if needed
Another piece of tubing with 2 clamps, to splice radiator hoses
Spare new heavy duty flasher (for 4 ways)
A few lengths of wire, 16 ga.
A spool of 12ga. wire
Pair of jumper cables (I made my own 25' long, I can jump a vehicle in a garage, or pull up behind the stuck vehicle, like a tow truck)
Come-along (you never know!)
30 Ft. Nylon tow strap (stretch-n-snatch)
Blaze Orange mesh traffic safety vests (I don't want to get killed when I get out to do whatever. Too many drive in snowstorms nowadays, they should stay home.)
2 Orange 30" Traffic Cones
Hydraulic bottle jack
2 blocks of 6x6 RR tie, so the jack will reach, and to block the wheels if needed
Propane torch-great for frozen plow pins, door locks, and just melting ice off of whatever (carry bottle with nozzle removed)
Fuses, round and flat types
Tail light bulbs
Turn signal bulbs
Small folding Army shovel
Flashlight (I use a 6 cell Mag-Lite)
A plastic jar full of nuts, bolts, and washers
Zip ties in different lengths (in a zip loc bag)
2 Qts. Motor oil
2 Qts. Auto trans fluid (I use it for my PS too)
2 Qts. Meyer hydraulic fluid
2 bottles of fuel line Antifreeze (Dry Gas)
Never-Sieze (messy stuff, but great)
Small bottle of brake fluid (sealed, I replenish at home if I need to. A sealed bottle won't absorb moisture from the air. Always use fresh Brake Fluid)
1 Gal. antifreeze mixture (50/50)
1 Gal. window washer fluid (really sucks having to throw snow on your windows ! )
Emergency Tire Chains (I made these, very simple to do, will get you unstuck, but not for driving on.) I have steel wagon wheels. I really don't care if I chip them, since they're rusted already. I cut 4 pieces of welded link 5/16" chain. I wrap 2 on each wheel, feeding it through the wheel, and around the tire, connecting the ends of the chain with a bolt, two washers, and a nut. This set up is to get you unstuck, not for plowing.
Spare set of mounting pins
Spare "A" coil (Meyer)
Spare "B" or "C" coil
Spare hose with 90 deg. swivel on end
Spare hydraulic couplers
Spare 12v solenoid (Ford starter type)
Spare sector King Bolt
Spare snowblower shear pins
2 Large cotter pins (that hold pivot pins in)
Assortment of plow bolts, nuts, and washers. (used will do)
A LOT OF STUFF ISN'T IT?
Between the center console I built, the glovebox, and the space behind the seats and console, it all fits! Under the seats too, yes. These are the things I've needed over the years while plowing. The things I had to "run home" and get. I carry a milkcrate in the bed as a step for working under the hood. Handy to have in general. I keep the RR ties in it.
SIMA is The Snow & Ice Management Association. They are a fairly new organization, serving the needs of those in our multimillion dollar a year industry. Every other Industry has organizations, that help make people aware of the job they do. We need one. We need a set of standard practices to be set in motion. The public thinks we are simply crooks with plows on our trucks. Yes, some of us may be. SIMA is working to change that. They are a voice that is getting louder. As more of us join, SIMA will be even larger, and stronger. They have an annual Symposium, which is a great source of information for all. My friend Dino went last year, and said "I learned more in 3 days, than in 10 years of plowing." I'm sorry I didn't go, but I just couldn't make it this year. A good, educational time was had by all. A lot of networking. Guys are faster to tell you how they manage plowing, contracts, and how they price, etc., when you aren't in direct competition for business with them. Many are large scale too, compared to us. It's nice to know you've "been doing it right" all these years. Know that you are following the standard practices of this industry. That is one of the lines in most "slip and fall" lawsuits. "Hired a negligent Snow & Ice Removal contractor to remove snow, that didn't perform the job according to industry standards." What exactly are industry standards?
Seems we really haven't set any yet now have we? Yes, we all think we plow "right". I'm sure many of us do. I'm sure we can all learn from each other as well though. More than many of you imagine I'm sure. How many of you, talk to others in your area that plow snow? I mean really talk? How many different companies do you talk to? Talk to any municipal, or government plow operators? We all have to band together, and compare notes. That's what SIMA's all about. They keep us up to date on new trends, and new products in the industry.
They also have set up discounts with suppliers for SIMA members only. I strongly urge you all to join SIMA. Tell them Chuck sent you.
Link, Links, Links
This Issue I've got quite a few links for you. These should keep you busy for a while.
C.U.E., Inc., Urethane Winter Road Maintenance Products - Cutting edges, salt Spinners, & more. http://www.cue-inc.com/page5.htm
Engine Oil Filter Study - You have to read this for yourself if you haven't already. I was shocked reading this, as many of you have told me you were when you read it.
PUBLIC ROADS On-Line (Spring 1995): New Strategies Can Improve Winter Road Maint. http://www.tfhrc.gov/pubrds/spring95/p95sp16.htm
Using Salt and Sand for Winter Road Maintenance - At www.usroads.com/
Odin Systems - Automatic deicing systems. They sense the road temperature, and apply deicer when necessary. They even have .avi's that show their systems in operation on a bridge deck. Very hi-tech, and pretty darn cool too! ;>)
Winter Road Maintenance - Contracting http://web.municipalworld.com/discuss/messages/966.htm
Eastern Winter Road Maintenance Symposium and Equipment Expo - This already took place this year. You can see who was there, or check on next years event. This year it took place in Albany, NY. http://www.ota.fhwa.dot.gov/winter/sidebar.htm
Chuck's Chevy Truck Pages - Winter Prep. - My tips for getting your vehicle ready for winter use. http://www.chuckschevytruckpages.com/winter.html
What do you want to see????
Anti - Icing
Applying De - Icer
Cell phones and 2 way radios
More great Links
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT????
©1999 Charles D. Smith
All Rights Reserved
May not be reproduced in whole or in part in any format,
without the author's express written permission to do so.
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