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Atlantic Racing Scene

Our East Coast snow removal professioinals are ready to meet this winter's onslaught

xBy Terry Waterfield

If there is one thing we all can count on, it’s the fact that winter follows fall. What we can’t forecast however, is what kind of a winter it will be. One thing for sure, we are going to have snow. But, how much snow are we going to have this year? Will the winter of 2006-2007 be like last year, when snow was scarce? Or will it be more like the winters we had in the previous two or three years, when it seemed to be snowing on a daily basis? One thing for sure, snow affects every one. Some like snow, some don’t.

Children, while they may not enjoy walking to school during a snow storm, nevertheless enjoy rolling in it on the way back home, and tracking it into the house when they get there. Not to mention enjoying the odd snow day away from school when they occur. Certainly, skiers and snowmobile owners look forward to having snow throughout the winter.

For many of us, however, facing a stormy day is often fraught with difficulties. Will we be able to get to work on time? Will my bus be on time? Do I have the time to clear the walk and driveway so I can get the car onto the street and make it to work? And once I get there, will I be able to use the parking lot?

We all remember the storm of Feb. 18-19, 2004, which dropped record-breaking snow fall amounts on most of the Maritimes, shutting down highways and cities. Halifax alone received over 95 cm. of the white stuff, prompting the city to declare a state of emergency. Many nicknamed the storm “White Juan”, coming as it did just months after the devastating Hurricane Juan. Well, not even skiers are hoping for snow like that this winter.

When it does come, and it will, then everyone is faced with the task of removing it. Actually, not much is removed, it is simply moved to a location that makes it less of a nuisance. There are many ways or getting snow out of the way. The simplest and oldest method, although probably the most physically demanding, is shoveling. Many of us use this method to take care of walks and driveways. Some of us have taken the next step and acquired a snow thrower to look after those needs.

Any East Coast street in winter

Hopefully, our municipal works department will have taken care of clearing the streets so the, once we have extracted ourselves from our driveway, we can reach our work place.
And for those of us who have to use provincial highways to get where we need to be, we can rely on our Provincial Transportation Department, although severe storms can make it difficult for both agencies to keep up. Nova Scotia, for example, has 23,000 kilometers of highway to service.

The Nova Scotia Transportation Dept. owns more than 800 pieces of equipment to maintain the highway system year round, and many of these are converted to snow removal and de-icing duties for the winter. The province also contracts to other snow removal individuals to help take up the slack. It’s the same for the other Atlantic Provinces.

But that still leaves a long list of places that need to be tended to. When we get to work, we need to be able to park our cars and enter the building safely. That holds true wherever we are going. Business, shopping malls, grocery stores, big and small, hospitals, the list goes on, need to be accessible and free of ice.

There are many businesses such as service stations and shopping malls, which operate their own snow removal equipment. For many others, however, there is a large network of companies and individuals who are ready and able to take on snow removal and ice control duties. These individuals, from the one-man operation all the way up to multinational supply companies, are already in the final stages of planning for this winter’s onslaught.

Whether it’s an apartment building owner, mall manager or hospital superintendent, the snow removal client is really interested in one thing, that his place of business is safely accessible to his staff and customers following, and as much as possible, during a storm.

Which means that, long before the first flakes of snow reach the ground, the plowing contractor has got to be ready. Most plowing operations begin their planning during the summer months, when many of them are engaged in other activities far removed from snow removal, such as landscaping or using their trucks for general hauling. It is during this time that contracts are settled, so that they are ready to go to work with the first storm.

Being ready means have all the necessary equipment in working order and installed, so a lot of time in late summer and early fall is take up with testing, repairing snow removal equipment. Backing up the snow removal contractor is a network of equipment dealers, service depots and manufacturers.

As Eric MacAulay, Manager of PowerQuip in Dartmouth, NS, the Atlantic Canada Distributor for Blizzard Plows and SnowEx Spreaders is quick to point out, to be successful you have to do the job right to get the return business. “When you get to a business, it has to be done extremely well and extremely clean,” MacAulay said. “Not only just getting the snow off so you can park, but it’s a liability issue as well.
“Both the plow and the spreaders have to work in conjunction with each other so that parking lot has to be in a safe condition for when these people get there in the morning.

“It’s something that we preach and that’s what we try to make people understand.” PowerQuip doesn’t sell directly to the end user, but MacAulay spends a lot of time ensuring the dealer which buy his product for resale understand the needs of their customers and are kept up to date with new products and procedures.

“Plows are just like anything else, every year they change, every year they change,” MacAulay points out. “If people don’t change they sort of get left behind.

Better get out of the way!

“That’s why I start off with a plow in the middle of summer on a truck driving down the road. I may look like an idiot, but that’s what we do to get our products in front of people.”
MacAulay spends a lot of time with his dealers, making sure they have the right line of equipment to meet the requirements of their customers.

“We want to make sure, for his particular area, that he has the right type of plow for his particular type of client, has products that will meet their particular needs,” MacAulay explains. Although PowerQuip doesn’t sell directly to the end users, MacAulay admits they do get calls from plow operators asking for advice, and they always take the time to answer the customer’s questions.

Ocean Truck Equipment in Dartmouth’s Burnside Industrial Park is another snow removal equipment dealer that believes in proper preparation. “In August and September most of the serious snow removal contractors start the researching process to determine what equipment they may need for the upcoming season, inspect their present equipment for any possible repairs needed, and look over their contracts to make sure they are prepared to meet the challenges of another winter,” Equipment Sales Representative Scott Hurshman said.

Ocean Truck handles Boss and Diamond snowplows and spreaders, and works closely with their customers to ensure they are getting the right equipment to handle their requirements.

“Many of them come to Ocean Truck Equipment for help with the servicing of their present equipment, or to purchase new snowplows or spreaders,” Hurshman added. “It’s important for our customers to make the right choice when buying new snow removal equipment.

“When contractors are using their snow plows and salt spreaders during a snow storm and something breaks down, the $50.00 or $100.00 they may have saved on their equipment purchase goes down the drain if they can’t get service quickly during a storm,” Hurshman said.

“At Ocean Truck Equipment our service doesn’t stop at the time of the sale of a snow plow, it’s just beginning “We realize our customers have to be able to react to snow, so we go the extra mile to keep them working.”

Ocean Truck provides a checklist to help their clients prepare for the winter snow plowing season, and works closely with them to implement it. One of their strong points is their follow-up service policy. Ocean Truck provides a 24-hour service to their clients and will advise the client how to fix most problems by phone to keep them on the road.

If this cannot be accomplished, Ocean Truck has a technician on call on a 24-hour basis who will open the service bay to meet their client to make the necessary repairs to get him back on the road.

Atlantic snow removers in action

Manufacturers can’t afford to launch vehicles that are not supported by a refueling infrastructure, and the energy industry can’t afford to build the infrastructure and wait 10 years for enough vehicles to be on the road to make it worth their investment.”

“The principal perceived benefit of most of these technologies is a reduced impact on the environment, which while important, does not tend to strongly affect individual purchase behavior in most markets,” notes Miller.  “As a result, consumers have not driven the demand for such vehicles.  Instead, these vehicles have been regarded as requiring the consumer to pay a higher price and make unacceptable tradeoffs in areas like performance, vehicle size and design.” 

But hybrid vehicles may be leading a change in consumer attitude in markets where they are being promoted aggressively by well-respected manufacturers such as Toyota and Honda.  And the required sacrifices are disappearing with some new hybrids actually boasting better acceleration than the vehicles’ conventional engine options. 

“The environment is becoming increasingly important to the consumer,” concludes Miller.  “Now they have an option to ‘do the right thing’ for society without giving up the things that matter to them as individual vehicle buyers.”