Thursday, February 9, 2012

Advice for New Snow Contractors - Look at Used Snowplows First, Then Buy New! – by Steve Taylor

I have previously written about how to choose from the multitude of Snow Plow brands. See my CTS Blog at http://www.ctsblog.net/2011/10/how-to-choose-snow-plow-for-your-light.html

When a snow removal contractor is starting out in business, they want to choose the best equipment for their needs. They want products that are durable and reliable and will hold up to the rigors of heavy snow and ice, storm after storm and year after year.

I have recommended researching a variety of plows as well as a number of dealers and distributors. But there are other important steps and methods for making a good choice. Remember that when you make a product choice, you are deciding on a brand that should grow with you as your company grows. That would mean that you want a product that will become part of your identity that looks the same on all your future trucks. Let’s say you choose red trucks and yellow plows; that is the color scheme that will come to identify your company. While color should not influence your decisions about durability/ reliability, it just points out the importance of choosing the right brand for you.

But further than color and style, choose a manufacturer that offers a wide range of different models, straight, V-Plows, extensions and possibly extendable blade plows, etc.

Talk with other contractors. The may be may be in your present circle of contacts or maybe you will have to reach out to a geographical area where contractors will not feel uncomfortable about giving up information to the competition. After all, if you ask someone who is, or will be your competition, are they always going to give up information that will help you make a good decision?

Also read comments about specific brands on the Plowsite.com. If you see more than one complaint on the same issue, go out and talk with users of the same product model and get their feedback.

Sure, go ahead and collect product brochures, but take extra steps to investigate products and their history. The brochures are designed to sell the product and are not going to point out any possible product weaknesses or problems.

I know there are some new brands and new models out there, but if you are just starting out in business, my advice is don’t add choosing one of these new products to the list of obstacles that you may have to overcome. Choose products that have been around a while. New model products often have early failures not anticipated in the testing lab, problems that show up when they are put to use in the field.

But take it a step further; take a close look at all the used equipment. Ask other contractors their product experience; why they prefer their equipment, ask them what they have had to repair. Also ask how they were handled by the local plow distributor. Ask if it was covered under warranty. Ask to take a close look at their equipment. And understand that often there is evidence of weak product, especially when it is worked hard. Often there are cracks and or rust in the paint where the structural components have been overstressed. Consider these weak points, even though it has not broken it may fail in the future. If you see this same condition in more than one unit, consider this a chronic problem with this brand or model.

Take a close at lots of plows; look at damage or evidence of bending.

             (This photo is an extreme condition and may not reflect any normal condition in the field)



So before you buy, read the social media comments, meet face to face with other contractors and talk with your local plow distributors and truck dealers. Be an informed buyer.

Guest post by Steve Taylor. Steve is a consultant in the Truck Equipment business with over 30 years in the snowplow and truck body manufacturing business. He specializes in the design and quality/reliability field and may be reached by email at steve@truckarchitect.com. You may visit his website at http://www.truckarchitect.com/.

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