Dedicated To Salting

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September 16, 2011
John Allin

I'm always perplexed when I am with a snow contractor and he tells me how his company is getting "double duty" out of his trucks by having them equipped with snowplows and salt spreaders.

Leaving aside the weight issue associated with all that steel sitting on or attached to the truck, the financial side of the equation begs that a contractor takes a closer look at revenue generation for this critical piece of equipment.

It means taking a one-ton pickup truck that is out producing revenue and really understanding how much this equipment generates to the operation's bottom line.

I believe – on a per-push basis – the hourly revenue generation of such a plow truck is in the vicinity of $250 to $300 per operating hour.

Now, if that vehicle is equipped with a slide-in tailgate spreader, the revenue generation jumps to $700 to $800 per hour, material included. In some cases, the revenue generation is upwards of $1,000 per hour, depending upon what the snow contractor charges for the rock salt or ice-melt product delivered and spread on the client's property.

There are a couple of other considerations that come into play here, too. There is not a truck on the market – that snow contractors use – specifically designed for commercial snow plowing. From a slightly different viewpoint, trucks are not designed to be rammed into hard, packed piles of snow over and over and over again. Something eventually has to give.

While plows themselves are constructed with failure points – so the stress is not directly transferred to the frame of the truck – the truck is not designed for the constant abuse aggressive plow drivers bless upon the steel construction of the truck itself.

Trucks are designed to carry "stuff." Loading it with salt – or dirt, or gravel or tools – does not tax the vehicle nearly as much as does the continual pounding associated with plowing snow.

There's some sound logic to having a portion of your fleet dedicated to deicing. There's the obvious reduction in wear and tear on a vehicle dedicated solely to salt and deicing duties, which results in a longer overall life of a vehicle that can generate as much as three times what a plowing vehicle generates.

One only has to wonder why so many contractors try to force a unit that can generation up to $1,000 per operator hour to generate $300 per operator hour ? That simply makes absolutely no sense to me.