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J & H Tackles Toughest Snow Conditions With Snow Wolf

Wed April 12, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide


The snow removal contract was snow cone sweet — 42 Minneapolis public school facilities with 24 hours to plow. But the contract came with a bitter bite.

No plowing could start until official notification came from the superintendent, no matter how much snow fell during the night (or how late he slept in), and no plowing during school hours. Sometimes, the call wouldn’t come until 7:00-7:30 a.m. This meant the J&H Landscaping crews were always plowing the schools’ parking areas after they had been driven and parked on all day long. Ruts and hard packed conditions were the rule under these circumstances.

What kept the contract successful was this contractor’s ability to combine the use of snow plows mounted to both skid steer loaders and pickup trucks, giving each vehicle the tasks best suited to its speed and efficiency.

“Use the truck on the open areas and the drives where they can maximize speed,” advised Jerry Holman, who landed the contract.

And what work do you assign to the skid steer, a vehicle that at best has a two-speed transmission and top speeds of 12 mph?

“In these circumstances, a plow on a skid steer is worth its weight in gold because it will clear the hard pack,” Holman said. “Put the skid steer to work clearing the packed snow, moving the heavy loads and maneuvering in the tight areas. You’ll get the quality of clearing you want with the productivity and the efficiency you need.”

Clearing Snow With a Skid Steer

In fact, one can substantially pick up the pace by plowing both coming and going with the skid steer. For example, the skid-steer can plow to the end of the lot, turn 180 degrees, angle the opposite way and plow back the other way. A pickup truck, on the other hand, plows to the pile, raises the plow and backs to the far end of the lot to start another pass. So even though the truck can go faster, the skid steer has opportunity to double the productivity.

Because they can turn on a dime by skidding to one side or another, skid steers can clean around obstacles like light poles and parking islands in no time at all. Push directly up to the pole and scoop around it in a circular motion, cleaning the snow away completely. A skid steer positions the operator to have visibility over the whole blade so he can judge distances closely and get nearer to obstacles. Don’t worry about hurting the skid steer. Trucks are costing $30,000 plus, and if it rubs a light pole with its fender one can quickly have $1,000 to $3,000 in damages. The skid, however, really can’t be hurt. At most, if its rubs the side of the pole, it leaves a black mark from the tire.

Consider using the skid steer to plow the ins and outs of dock areas, then go into the parking lot and clean up around all the light poles, parking islands and feed the snow out to the pickup plow, which can stay out of harm’s way and do what a truck can do best, high speed long pushes. It takes an immense amount of stress away from the truck operator who then is not exposed to high risk areas near or between obstacles.

Another thing to note is the skid can stack the snow higher than a truck. Put it to work at this end of the job, too, and you’ll get more snow storage on site before hauling is required.

Back to that school parking lot. Cars and buses have all been driving on it all day. How do you clear to the pavement under the now packed, frozen tundra? This is a job for a skid steer with a snow plow designed to allow down pressure on the blade.

With this feature, the front wheels of the skid-loader can actually be lifted off the ground, applying the full weight of the skid onto the blade to clear the pavement completely clean. The ability to do this depends upon the plow’s trip design. Those with a full trip will “trip forward” or release the blade when it catches on a surface edge. They have a tendency to “false trip” when they bear a heavy load, allowing little use of the skid’s down pressure ability.

Plows with the trip confined to the bottom edge will only trip when an immovable object is encountered. The skid’s weight can bear down on the blade to clean the surface of hard packed snow and icy ruts. Additionally, an edge-only trip allows the operator to stack snow as high as the skid can reach because the plow will remain upright and solid as it goes into the pile.

Remember, the skid is made to work in rocks and dirt, it can certainly take anything snow can dish out. If an operator has rough conditions like freezing rain causing a crust on top of the snow, hard pack or drifting, a skid can be used without fear of damaging it.

The challenge is to get a snow plow as tough as the skid steer. There are some out there, and they’re heavy. The quality lines are more than 45 kilograms (100 lb.) per foot of width. Unlike a truck, which has factory limitations of how much weight one can put on the front, skid steers have no such restrictions. Snow plows built for skid steers can, and should be, heavy-duty. This is why a truck plow adapted to a skid-steer loader will not work very well.

It is easier for the weight of a snow load to push a skid steer sideways than a pickup. This is caused by the short wheel base of the skid steer versus a truck. Because of the low speed of the skid, snow will also tend to come off the wrong edge of the blade before it would off a pickup plow which moves faster. To correct both of these scenarios, some manufacturers have increased the turn angle of their skid steer plows. This keeps the loader going straight when the operator is pushing a large windrow of snow.

Before assigning jobs to the pickup or skid steer, remember, the skid steer is rigid. It has no springs or suspension like a truck. One corner of the plow can be digging into the pavement and the other corner can be 8 centimeters (3 in.) off the ground and leaving unplowed snow behind. The Snow Wolf snow plow has corrected this suspension concern with an oscillating frame, allowing either end of the blade to plow higher or lower than the other side. This is automatic on the Snow Wolf and does not require input from the operator.

In snow removal, as in most aspects of grounds maintenance, recognizing and utilizing the full ability of the equipment is a key element of maximizing crew efficiency.

For more information, call 800/905-2265.




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