Crossing blades

Features - Operations

Each brings an advantage to the fight, but your choice of a straight or v-plow may determine your success in the field.

Photo: Baloncici

When it comes to efficient snow removal, straight-blade plows are typically used secondary on the job, with the exception of small residential driveway work – where they are preferable for moving smaller amounts of snow in tighter spaces, according to Rob Louiso, owner of Louiso Lawn Care and Landscapes based near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Louiso has always used straight blades.

“We did have one v-blade but I didn't care for it. They just didn't seem to be as efficient to us in our application. And when they came out with the wide-outs, we fell in love with those,” he says.

Louiso Lawn Care offers lawn mowing and landscape maintenance, snow removal and more, along with operating a garden center.

Their customers are both commercial and residential.

“They (wide-outs) move so much more volume of snow. You can make them a straight-blade or you can flare the wings out on them,” Louiso says.

The v-blade advantage

Reliable Property Services, a property maintenance company based in St. Paul, Minnesota, has about 30 plows in-house.

The bulk of the snow plowing is done by 120-plus subcontractors, says Steve Bjorgan, fleet manager.

Reliable Property Services has an annual revenue of about $32 million and roughly half of that revenue comes from snow removal services.

“We really prefer they have a v-blade because they do have a little higher production standard to them,” he says. “Sometimes their rate is based on straight versus v-blade.”

Reliable Property Services employs 80 full-time employees year-round and up to 275 people on a seasonal basis.

“If you want to run a curb line or you want to take care of a snow trail in the middle the lot, it’s easy to collect with a v-blade because it all goes to the center and scoop,” he says. “A straight-blade takes more passes to do the same job.” V-blades also offer increased mobility, Bjorgan adds.

“The v-blade just has more versatility to it. Snow rolls off each side rather than scooping it. It allows you to plow through rather heavy snow,” he says.

While v-blades typically cost more than a straight-blade, it doesn’t take long to recapture that cost. A straight-blade runs about $5,000 to $5,500. A v-blade costs about $6,000 to $6,500, Bjorgan says.

Sizing up each job

Louiso says he uses different types of blades, and in different combinations, depending on the job.

Most of his fleet is comprised of wide-outs. Plow boxes are used on large commercial properties, along with straight-blades.

“The straight-blades will run three or four rows, kicking it in and then the plow box comes and takes the bulk of it off,” he says. “The straight-blades work in conjunction with the loaders with the plow boxes.” For medium size lots, wide-outs are used.

“It's mounted on a truck so it transports down the highway better,” Louiso says. “But then it can also cup and scoop large volumes of snow if we happen to have that.”

Louiso Lawn Care has an average annual revenue of about $2.5 million to $3 million. About 25 percent of that revenue is drawn from snow removal work.

Blades are sized based on the size of the truck, Bjorgan says. Most standard pickup trucks have an eight-foot, 6-inch wide v-blade.

Maintenance matters

Routine maintenance is vital to upkeep on all plow blades.

“We just change oil in the fall for the season and we use a dialectical grease that’s put in the couplers,” Bjorgan says.

His company only buys stainless steel blades to eliminate the need for painting.

Reliable Property Services doesn’t replace cutting edges frequently.

A smaller fleet of plows is used in-house and those plows are only operated by managers, Bjorgan says. Louiso Lawn Care employs 28 people. In the winter subcontractors are brought in to help with snow removal. Servicing their blades after every use is important, as is storage.

“After we use them (trucks with plows), we steam clean everything and spray them down with a lubricant to help stop rust and corrosion (after every storm),” Louiso says.

New cutting edges are applied as needed, due to wear – usually once every five to six years for a metal edge.

Rubber edges tend to last a little longer on plow boxes, Louiso says. Simple practices, such as marking curbs, can help extend the life of all snow plowing equipment.

Holly Hammersmith is a freelance writer based in Ohio.