One way to keep your employees working and money flowing during seasonal construction slowdowns is to offer snow removal services. But snow presents a different set of hazards from a typical construction jobsite.
The number one concern when adding snow handling to your construction company's services should be safety.
"You have to be careful when you're plowing. You have to be safe," says Zeke Zinchiak of ZCon Inc., primarily a Woodbine, Md., concrete contractor.
While ZCon doesn't do any special training for its snow handling operators, Zinchiak says it's important that your drivers know how to operate the equipment properly and safely. Make sure your employees know how to drive safely in snow, whether they are plowing a parking lot or driving to the site. "You want to make sure you have qualified drivers," Zinchiak says.
Safe drivers are likely to take better care of the equipment, which is especially important if you're using the trucks and construction equipment year round and need it to last.
Zinchiak emphasizes that it takes effort to make sure your trucks and equipment are ready before the snow flies.
"Make sure you have your truck set up right in terms of safety: flashing lights, strobe lights, etc. because you're out plowing at night time – especially if you're in parking lots and you've got people driving around; you've got to be careful," Zinchiak says.
Even the safest operators with properly set up equipment get into accidents in the snow. Zinchiak's advises contractors "make sure you have insurance."
What types of coverage should you consider?
- Bodily injury and property damage liability. Covers your legal liability for an accident in which there is damage or injury to someone else.
- Collision and comprehensive. Helps cover the costs of repairs and replacement if vehicles are damaged in an accident or stolen – regardless of who is at fault.
- Uninsured motorists bodily injury and property damage. This covers medical treatment and damage to your vehicle caused by someone without insurance.
- Equipment coverage. Helps cover costs of repairing or replacing damaged equipment.
"Find out from your agent or insurer what's covered under you policy, and add extra endorsements as needed," says Ken Bowman, Progressive Commercial Auto Product Manager.
For example, some vehicle insurance companies will only extend coverage to drivers who are specifically named on the policy. Make sure your insurer allows "permissive use," which means that all of your drivers are covered as long as they have your permission to operate the vehicle.
Here are some additional questions Bowman suggests asking insurance companies to be sure your business is properly insured:
- Can/will the insurance company cover your company year round?
- What expertise does the company have insuring heavy vehicles as well as pickup trucks?
- What is the carrier's experience in covering municipal and residential snow removal?
- How are claims handled? Is 24/7 claims service for light and heavy vehicles available?
Take care of business
You might already have most of the equipment and willing manpower to start a snow-removal business, but make sure you consider the business end as carefully as your construction services.
ZCon gets its plow work subcontracting to a local landscape company.
Zinchiak says the benefit of being a plowing subcontractor is that the landscape company already has relationships with the customers and may already have a contract so ZCon doesn't have to go find the work.
Snow handling equipment
Here's a list of just some of the snow handling products available to the construction market. Check out the Snow Handling Equipment category on the FCP Buyers' Guide for even more products and equipment.