Preseason: Get Your Equipment Out of Storage

BuyersVMD_InActionIt is always best to clean, repair and service your plows and spreaders before storing them at the end of the season, but a lot of equipment just gets put away wet and dirty. Even if you put everything away properly, things can happen during the offseason that you will want to catch sooner rather than later. For example, a contractor put away his V-plow and had a mouse get into the power unit and make a meal out of his plow harness. Ignoring the occasional mouse, when your equipment is put away properly, it should come out of storage and work well.

When the leaves start to change, pull out your equipment, inspect it, hook it up and operate it. Just as you do with your vehicles, be sure to follow recommended yearly maintenance procedures, which usually include lubrication, changing the oil, checking all the connectors and inspecting for mechanical damage. Don’t forget to check the truck as well. Plowing is hard on the plows as well as on the truck. If someone backed into a wall with the spreader last season (and forgot to mention it), now is the best time to find it. A bent spinner shaft can quickly go from annoying to ending your route (and income) for the night.

Posted in Snow Equipment Maintenance | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preseason Prep Starts Now

Save yourself time, hassle and money by getting your gear ready before the first snowflakes fall.

Buyers_PolyElectricSpreaderAction_SHPE3000CH If you haven’t already started getting your equipment checked out and prepared for the upcoming snow season, you should start today. For snow removal professionals, it is critical to start the season as prepared as possible.

One of the biggest mistakes that snow and ice control businesses can make is waiting until the first snowfall to check that their equipment is in working order. Pulling your snow plows, salt spreaders and other equipment out in September to clean, inspect and service can save you money and reduce your cost of ownership.

When it comes to this industry, time is definitely money. If you don’t start early on your preseason checklist, you’ll run the risk of finding one of your trucks out at 3:00 a.m. with a failed piece of equipment. In that situation, you might have to contract the job out to someone else until your equipment is fixed or replaced. If you’re lucky enough that your dealer is open and can fix your problem quickly, you’ll still end up behind schedule.

Over the next few posts, we’ll help you get ready for the snow season.

Posted in Snow Equipment Maintenance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Choosing a Salt/Sand Spreader: Common Questions

What size spreader do you need for your commercial applications?

The spreader you choose for your jobs will depend on a few variables.

  • The amount of material you need to spread on your jobs:  You want to use your spreader as efficiently as possible, and determine how much material you need the spreader hopper to hold.
  • The size and capacity of your truck: Do you use a pickup, dump or flatbed truck? What are the manufacturers recommendations for weight capacity and what are the dimensions of the truck bed?
  • The type of material you will be spreading: Will you be spreading salt, sand, a mixture of the two or some other material? Sand is heavier than salt and usually requires additional features to control and maintain flow.

Do you want a poly, carbon steel or stainless steel hopper?

Spreaders have been traditionally constructed from heavy-duty carbon steel to withstand extreme temperatures and weather conditions. Rotationally molded double wall poly spreaders are lighter weight and easier to install and maintain. Stainless steel construction is another option for long life of the spreader.

Auger or chain drive?

Auger

Auger Driven Spreader

Chain-Drive

Chain Driven Spreader

An auger-driven spreader directs the salt to the spinner using a steel spiral that runs along the hopper floor. The auger is powered by an electric, gas or hydraulic motor.  It can be run at different speeds to accommodate the material in the spreader.

A chain-driven spreader moves the material across the hopper floor with a conveyor system made of steel chains. Chain drives are commonly used in the larger capacity and municipal spreaders. Using a chain-driven spreader is a choice for more control over the flow of material, but also involves more moving parts, and additional motors to power the conveyor.

Additional Vibrator?

A vibrator is used to continually move or shake the material in the hopper to help prevent it from packing and jamming the spreader.

Electric, Gas or Hydraulic Drive?

The power source for spreaders can be DC Electric, Gas or Hydraulic. Electric and Gas-driven models are commonly used with the smaller, self-contained spreaders up to 6 cu. yd capacity. Hydraulically powered spreaders are typically used for the larger, municipal jobs.

These are some of the primary considerations when choosing to invest in a new spreader. There are also many other bells and whistles available to add on such as lights, wetting systems, covers, etc.

Want to compare features of some of the most commonly used commercial spreaders? Check out the SaltDogg Spreaders Comparison charts to see how the popular brands measure up and to determine the best spreader for your needs.

What’s your preference?

Posted in Snow | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Equipment auction analysis shows sales boost

Today we have a guest post from Michael Keating.

EquipmentWatch has issued its latest “Heavy Equipment Auction Market Trending” report covering the period through June 30.

EQW-Logo-Letterhead_test_04172013

After a decrease in April, the heavy equipment construction market showed an uptick in auction sales during the second quarter of 2013. Year-over-year, the market saw a 20 percent increase in total sales, and a 1 percent decrease in volume. Canada, specifically Western Canada, showed significant increases in market activity year-over-year. In the special Commercial Truck Analysis, prices for both medium and heavy-duty trucks remained steady during the second quarter. This EquipmentWatch analysis was conducted using data from the Last Bid, an EquipmentWatch database.

The top five heavy equipment types, ranked by volume, according to the latest quarterly analysis are:

  • Crawler-Mounted Hydraulic
    Excavators
  • 4-Wheel-Drive Articulated
    Wheel Loaders
  • Skid Steer Loaders
  • Wheel Tractors
  • Tractor Loader Backhoes

In its report of auction activity for 4-wheel-drive articulated wheel loaders, EquipmentWatch found that average unit sale prices began leveling out during the summer 2013 season, almost matching sales for the previous year for the top manufacturers.

Notably, after a full year of decreasing prices, Komatsu had a price increase in Q1. However, Q2 prices continued the previous decline. Caterpillar maintained its price premium in Q2 despite no relative price increase.

The Southwest U.S. saw a 94 percent increase in unit volume year-over-year for 4-WD Articulated Wheel Loaders. Western Canada’s recent push to increase its presence in the auction area is proving fruitful with a 5x year-over-year unit volume gain and total volume just trailing the Southeast U.S.

This site has information on EquipmentWatch and its latest analyses, including a new report on resale heavy equipment markets. Go here to sign up to receive EquipmentWatch analyses via e-mail.

EquipmentWatch produces database information products for the construction equipment industry. It serves more than 15,000 professional, high-volume users of construction and lift truck data. Its online and print products are used as tools in decisions surrounding the purchase, valuation, operation, and disposal of equipment.

Michael Keating is senior editor for Government Product News and the GPN website, and works with Penton’s EquipmentWatch. He can be reached via email at michael.keating@penton.com or at mikekeat@gmail.com.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for a new Salt Spreader?

It’s getting to be that time of year again and if you’re going to start looking how do you compare apples to apples?

BuyersSpreaderComparisonChart“Buyers did the research so that our customers won’t have to. These direct comparisons help consolidate the research phase for investing in a salt spreader,” said Brian Smith, marketing manager at Buyers Products. “We placed the features and other aspects of the SaltDogg spreaders directly beside the competition so that consumers can find the best value.”

The charts allow customers to review materials and features of comparable SaltDogg, Air-Flo®, The BOSS™, DownEaster, Henderson®, Meyer®, SnowEx®, Swenson, TruckCraft and Western® salt spreaders in one location.

CompareSaltSpreaders.com is a single source of information on same-level salt spreaders from 10 popular brands. On the website, users can find side-by-side product specifications and features for SUV, tailgate gravity-fed, vertical-auger, two-stage, 2-yard polymer, 3-, 4- and 6-yard polymer auger, electric stainless steel chain-drive and under-tailgate electric salt spreaders.

 

Posted in Salt and Sand Spreaders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for a new Snow Plow?

It’s getting to be that time a year  when you start thinking about replacing that old plow or adding one to that new truck you just purchased.

BuyersPlowComparisonChart“When considering a snow plow purchase, we think it’s important for customers to be able to see how SnowDogg products measure up to the competition,” said Brian Smith, marketing manager at Buyers Products. “We did the legwork so that they can compare them ‘apples-to-apples’ without scouring several websites for the information.”

The charts allow customers to review construction and features of comparable SnowDogg, Blizzard®, The BOSS™, Fisher®, Meyer® and Western® snow plows on one website.

CompareSnowPlows.com is a single source of information on same-level snow plows from five different brands. On the website, users can find side-by-side product information for medium-duty, 7 1/2- and 8 1/2 -foot contractor, 7 1/2- and 8 1/2-foot V-plow and expanding plow models from leading brands.

 

Posted in Snow | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fragile economic recovery drives improved government budgets

Today we have a guest post from Michael Keating.

Increased consumer spending, a rising stock market, and robust home valuations all signal that the U.S. economy is strengthening. Sujit CanagaRetna, a fiscal analyst for the Lexington, Ky.-based Council of State Governments, says improvements in gross domestic product (GDP), coupled with shrinking unemployment numbers, are among the signs the economy is on an upswing. “Improving export figures, a booming energy market driven by natural gas extractions, and a recovering manufacturing sector are some of the positive elements in the U.S. economy that offer room for cautious optimism,” he adds.

As the economy strengthens, governments will loosen their purse strings. In 2014, government purchases of goods and services will reach $3.09 trillion, up from $3.02 trillion in 2013, according to Lexington, Mass.-based economic forecaster IHS Global Insight. For 2013, federal government purchases of goods and services will total $1.17 trillion, while state and local government purchases will reach $1.86 trillion. By 2018, government purchases of goods and services will rebound to $3.35 trillion, IHS predicts. Of that amount, state and local purchases will total about $2.13 trillion.

News flash: job growth in the U.S. is still sluggish. The Associated Press has reported, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, that unemployment rates rose in more than half of U.S. states in July, and that fewer states added jobs in the most recent month reported.

Construction trends

The value of public works/infrastructure construction underway in the U.S. should reach $100 billion in 2013, which is 1 percent less than 2012 public works construction levels, according to the “2013 Dodge Construction Outlook.”

State and local governments account for approximately 75 percent of all infrastructure spending in the U.S., with the remainder supplied by the federal government, according to “Infrastructure 2013: Global Priorities, Global Insights,” a joint report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Ernst & Young.

Dona Storey_AM_EX photoProjects in the waterworks sector – potable water, wastewater, and storm water – are being driven by the need to replace aging, underground infrastructure, by environmental regulations, and by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consent decrees, says Dona Storey, the American Express OPEN Advisor on Procurement. “Cuts in public funding are challenging municipalities’ efforts to address these issues. However, potential funding from Private Activity Bonds (PABs) and revenue streams from new storm water fees may drive greater private-sector investment,” says Storey.

For the construction trades, things are looking up in road building. In the five years to 2017, revenue for the road & highway construction industry is anticipated to increase at an average annual rate of 2.2 percent to $53.5 billion, say IBISWorld analysts in a recent report.

Passage in mid-June, 2012 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), should help the road construction industry rebound somewhat. A boost in tax receipts from the improving economy will help state & local governments increase transportation infrastructure spending. For ordering info for the new Aug 2013 IBISWorld Industry Report 23411a, go here.

One government-funded road infrastructure project worth noting is the construction of a three-sided bridge in White Plains, N.Y. The New York State Department of Transportation designed the bridge project in-house, which includes work on the I-287 Exit 8 interchange. The bridge serves as the westbound crossing over the Mamaroneck River on Westchester Ave.

Oldcastle_construction_ECCOStarBridge_SMALLAvon, Conn.-based Oldcastle Precast Inc. provided 47 precast rigid frame sections as part of the project. The sections cover a 23-foot span with a 9-foot 8-inch rise. Yonkers, N.Y.-based ECCO III is the contractor. The completion date for the project is slated for later this month.

According to the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Consensus Construction Forecast Panel, we should see healthy if unspectacular gains for the remainder of 2013 in nonresidential construction activity (including government and institutional structures). The AIA panel predicts construction spending for buildings will rise by 5 percent in 2013 before accelerating to 7.2 percent in 2014.

Keating_pic333_small_web_01142012Michael Keating is senior editor for Government Product News and the GPN website. The first part of his mid-year 2013 forecast is here. He can be reached via email at michael.keating@penton.com or at mikekeat@gmail.com.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sno-Motion Where You Find the Cutting Edge

logo-sno-motion_10944113

Scott Moorman, Director of Engineering at Buyers,presented at Sno-Motion in Cleveland last month in the advanced deicing application technology session.

He discussed the different styles of spreaders and de-icing materials, including the choices of steel, stainless steel or poly spreaders; auger vs. chain drive; and power source: gas, electric or hydraulic. Scott also covered the variety of material choices (salt, sand, salt/sand mix or other material), and the application quality with the different spreader options.

Sno-Motion is a different type of event than traditional trade shows because the focus is on education, sharing knowledge and not selling. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of what happened at Sno-Motion 2013, check out the hashtag #snomotion2013

Some of what Scott covered in his presentation can be found in these previous posts:

Posted in Salt and Sand Spreaders | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Are you ready for snow season?

BuyersVMDPlowAfter two light snow seasons, it may be difficult to invest in gearing up for the start of snow season.

Dave Zelis, director of marketing and sales at Buyers products, got the feeling at SIMA in June that professionals in the snow business are going to be cautious about investing in equipment. Dave recently talked with GreenIndustryPros.com about this trend in cautiousness, you can read the article on their website.

Our industry is in snow season right now, taking stock, seeing what’s new and trying to predict their needs for when the snow actually starts falling. Could you use a new plow? Or do you need a new plow?

Buyers produces snow products year-round in order to be there when snow pros like you need the new equipment, even if it’s when a late-fall snow storm hits.

Distributors/dealers who carry the SnowDogg and SaltDogg products can get them quickly, even into February, which keeps their risk low and helps you be prepared

Posted in Snow, Snow Equipment Maintenance | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Tips for Smart Growth in Snow

Today we have a guest post from Brian K. Birch, CAE.

5 Tips for Smart Growth in Snow

VMDPlowActionShotFor almost a decade I’ve had the privilege of working with snow and ice removal professionals from across the US and Canada. Through those relationships I have learned so much about life and about running a business, whether it is a non-profit trade association like the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA) or a professional snow and ice management business. I’ve worked on some great projects, specifically about how to grow a snow business in ways that are sustainable and profitable. Here are a few key takeaways from some of the training we’ve built at SIMA on this topic:

  • Know your numbers: Any successful businessperson in this industry must truly understand what their costs are to perform, including overhead, labor, equipment and materials. Understanding these true costs is essential to becoming profitable, as the hidden costs of doing this work (including insurance, breakdowns, heavy storms, etc.) can kill profit.
  • Understand your capacity: Tied to cost is the ability to actually do the work, which we define as capacity in the snow industry. In order to even bid a job effectively, you must know if you have the equipment, manpower and materials to service it; and if you don’t, it can be a struggle to add capacity (either through equipment or subcontracting) while keeping a grip on cash flow and the overall management of the services you provide. And don’t forget, having a solid percentage of your capacity (at least 10-20%) in reserve is key in this industry, as Mother Nature is never kind.
  • Create an accurate estimating process: Once you know your true costs and can calculate your overall capacity, the next step is to create an accurate, replicable estimating process. This process should help qualify which sites/prospects are a good fit for your company and create consistency in pricing for your customers. Such consistency will enhance your reputation over time, standardize your administrative back end more effectively and allow you to evaluate your financial success more accurately.
  • Manage risk proactively: Over the last 10 years, running a snow and ice management business has become more risky. Many properties, especially in the retail and commercial sectors, have leveraged complex contractual language to push much of the liability onto their service providers, including those in snow. In order to grow sustainably, risk must be managed proactively and become an integral part of the business. This includes investing in good insurance that includes a snow “rider,” building a systematic method for documenting all snow services (and archiving such documentation for many years) and becoming adept at reviewing and managing contractual agreements.
  • Streamline billing: Even if a snow and ice management company achieves all of the above, if it doesn’t have a streamlined, accurate billing process, it can all fall apart. Especially in these times, when larger national and regional entities may be aggregating services and hiring subs, billing for service quickly has become essential. In fact, some contracts even stipulate that invoicing take place for service within a specific time frame (e.g. 48 hours). Cash is king, and nowhere is this truer than in the snow business; having a quick and accurate billing process that can turn invoices around within 24-48 hours is essential, not to mention having a process and policy for late payments and non-payments.

Creating a long-term, sustainable path for growth in snow and ice management is extremely challenging. Take a close look at these five aspects of your business, and identify areas in which you can improve. For a more comprehensive list of Best Practices for snow and ice management, download for free the Best Practices Checklist from SIMA at www.sima.org/bestpractices.

Brian K. Birch is the Chief Operating Officer for SIMA, which provides resources, leadership, and support to the snow & ice industry. More information on SIMA is available at www.sima.org.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment