Equipment selection makes all the difference
Ask any snow professional what the biggest challenge is concerning sidewalk management and you’ll hear that it’s retaining sidewalk crew members.
“When we have a 12-hour snow storm, they just get burned out,” said Jim Johnson, owner of Johnson Seasonal Services in Auburn Hills, Mich. “The machines can go 24/7, but people can’t.”
“The hardest part of the job is you are exposed to the elements,” said Chris Marino, owner of Xtreme Snow Pros in New Jersey. Johnson finds that offering a place to sleep, shower and eat helps ease the demands each event puts on his employees.
Upgrading equipment, particularly to a tractor with a cab, also provides more comfortable conditions for operators and helps prevent burn out and fatigue.
By hand or machine
Stairs, closed-in walkways and tight areas need to be maintained with shovels or hand pushers. However, when a storm puts down sheets of ice on a sidewalk, shoveling will not produce the necessary results.
Mechanized machines or walk-behind equipment are alternatives, but when cleaning miles of walkways, or for heavy snow and ice, they are less productive and cost-effective.
Marino uses shovels, ATVs and walk-behind snowblowers to manage sidewalks. But because these are labor-intensive and workers are exposed to the elements, he’s turning to subcompact tractors.
Over the past several years, the use of subcompact tractors for snow removal has increased. Many snow and ice professionals find they’re useful for keeping ahead of the competition and managing labor costs; and attachments like brooms, angle blades, spreaders and snow blowers increase productivity without the need to haul multiple machines to the job site.
Keep them comfortable, keep them safe
ATVs and other quad-type vehicles equipped with plows, blades or brooms remain popular choices for sidewalks. They have benefits when cleaning larger areas, but don’t offer operators protection from the elements.
Many managers do not like that their workers are unprotected from the elements but are unable to find a sidewalk machine that improves efficiency and provides operator protection. Sidewalk imperfections also present a concern, as operators have been thrown over the front of some units, causing serious injury.
Skid steers perform zero-radius turns, can function in larger areas and offer some weather protection for operators. Units with controls that are easy to operate and do not require days of training are a plus. If workers are comfortable with the equipment, they can devote more hours to production. As a bonus, most subcompact tractors come equipped with a cab.
Finding the perfect match
Snow professionals know that managing sidewalks is not easy. Worker comfort and safety should be high on the list, and equipment that offers high productivity, is user friendly, and provides comfort and safety should be part of the consideration. Once you find that perfect synergy of equipment and crews, you have half the battle won.
Information provided by Ventrac.