Pandora’s Box

Features - Equipment & technology

Box plows provides snow professionals with a number of advantages in fighting winter’s worst weather.

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October 14, 2019

©Mike Voories, Brilar

With snow and ice management, sometimes you just need to think inside the box. Commercial snow removal contractors say the box plow can offer some advantages and unique abilities over other plow designs within an effective snow removal strategy.

Collecting snow in tight spaces

One of the most notable advantages to the box plow is the ability to collect a lot of snow and move it to a different location, says Mike Seefeld, president of Allegheny Winter Services, LLC based in New Kensington, Pa.

The company provides snow and ice management for commercial clients including industrial facilities and power plants. The Allegheny Winter Services fleet is comprised of five box plows, two V-plows and the remaining plows are straight plows, Seefeld says. He buys new plows as needed based on wear and number of client accounts.

“We do a mall and we use bigger box plows,” Seefeld says. “We have 10- and 12-foot box plows for that. That collects a lot of snow.”

They also work well in tight areas, Seefeld adds.

“One facility we have is an industrial facility that has a bunch of pallets in aisleways and those pallets have 55-gallon drums on them and some of it is hazardous waste,” Seefeld says. “We have skid loaders that have different sized box plows and we can go right in and go in them aisle ways and push that snow completely out.”

Act like a squeegee

Seefeld also points out the box plow can handle melting snow very well.

“This year we had a storm where it was warm but it was still snowing, so that snow was hitting the ground and melting,” Seefeld says. “The box plows contained all that slush to get it to where we needed to get instead of just slipping underneath the truck plows. Those rubber edges really work. They act like a squeegee.”

That “squeegee ability” has also helped contractors like Chris Marino reduce salt usage.

Marino is owner of Xtreme Snow Pros based in West Milford, New Jersey. The company offers full snow and ice management on large commercial, industrial and government properties in New York and New Jersey state. Marino says his fleet consists of a combination of box plows and multi-function blades (plows with wings).

“They have really good scraping ability,” Marino says. “We’re really able to scrape right down to the pavement and reduce hard packed snow and reduce our salt usage while increasing the safety of the environment.”

Moving more snow

Joe Gibbons notes an advantage with the box plow in terms of square footage pushed per hour.

Gibbons is vice president of operations for The Service Innovators based in Wheeling, Ill. TSI offers snow and ice management services to large, commercial zero-tolerance companies, along with landscape and other property maintenance services.

“In your average event, you’re only using 75 percent of that (straight) blade before it (snow on the blade) will begin to roll over. In larger events, you could be down to 50 percent of that blade,” Gibbons says. “When you put a wing on it, you’re running more of 90 percent or 100 percent of the length of the blade, increasing your productivity.”

The TSI fleet consists of a lot of box plows (primarily sectional plows) along with some Western Wide-Outs.

The stacking ability and maneuverability come in especially handy on more challenging properties, Gibbons says.

“A lot more of our sites are now 24 hours, seven days a week, so you’re working around constant traffic and obstacles,” Gibbons says. “The box plow is a lean plow, it gives you the option to increase mobility, to move snow to a specific spot instead of having to just finish a run straight. And you’re able to take the snow around corners.”

Box plows are versatile in that they can easily be added to a variety of snow and ice management equipment, Marino says.

Xtreme Snow Pros has approximately 150 employees and an annual revenue of $6 million.

“You’re able to transform a machine that essentially just has a bucket on it into a snow pushing machine,” Marino says.

©mike voories, brilar

Durability factors

Snow contractors say box plows are typically a durable, long-lasting piece of equipment.

“They’re very durable. I haven’t had too many experiences other than your normal wear and tear, whether it’s the rubber bands breaking or grooves getting worn out,” Gibbons says. “The parts that are meant to be worn out have held up in my eyes.”

Maintenance to the box plow also depends on the operator, Gibbons says.

“If the operator’s putting the machine in float, you’re not wearing out the skis ahead of time,” Gibbons says. “You’re getting a nice, even wear pattern. If you’ve got an operator who’s constantly pushing it into the ground, you’re going to increase the wear and decrease the durability and lifetime of the equipment.”

Marino points out lifespan depends on the manufacturer as well.

“In the beginning of my business I went with some cheap blades that I found on eBay and they were destroyed in one storm,” Marino says, who now uses Metal Pless.

In order to avoid unnecessary wear, Marino offers a few tips for operation.

“You don’t need down pressure when you’re using a box blade,” Marino says. “It should be kind of just like floating along. But the biggest thing is make sure that its level and you don’t need to put down pressure on it.”

Maintenance tips

Box plow maintenance typically includes replacing a few wearable parts on a consistent basis.

“The quality of steel in the snow components seems to be at the point where we very rarely have to change out cutting edges mid-year,” Gibbons says. “Unless we’re doing sites that have large driveways, and you’re doing them at a higher rate of speed, the cutting edges will wear out faster. But most of the equipment is designed pretty well that it will last you a season.”

TSI employs about 150 workers during peak season and partners with other service providers. TSI has an annual revenue of approximately $5 million.

© Schill Grounds Management

Gibbons says his team will carry spare rubber bands for the sectionals in case a fix on-site is needed.

At season’s end, Gibbons says his team will change out parts and ready the plows for the next season.

“They don’t require a lot of maintenance in my eyes,” Gibbons says. “They’re similar to a plow with the exception of a lot of your hoses and mechanical parts are on the loaders’ themselves, so that’s more likely to go than the actual push box itself.”

Marino says shoes are typically replaced every two years.

“Some blades have a poly edge, a rubber edge,” Marino says. “We have a titanium steel edge which is based upon that live edge. And you can be probably three years versus seven hundred hours out of the titanium steel.”

After every storm, Seefeld says his team checks the plows and equipment for any needed repairs, maintenance or adjustments. He typically replaces shoes and cutter edges once a season. Lubrication to moving parts is done regularly. Allegheny Winter Services has an annual revenue of $500,000 and approximately 11 employees and no subcontractors.

Most box plows come with a powder coat finish. This can wear over time. Gibbons says he will occasionally have the box plows repainted.

“They’ve been pretty durable but as with any powder coat, though once the rust gets behind there, it will work its way in,” Gibbons says.

Marino says his team uses a product called Fluid Film to coat the box plows pre-winter and post-winter to help prevent rust.

Holly Hammersmith is a Cleveland-based writer and frequent Snow Magazine contributor.