Snow fighter Chris Marino is just a wealth of solid, creative ideas on how to bring efficiencies to his snow ops. For example, last month we highlighted how the head of Xtreme Snow Pros, Ringwood, N.J., transformed military equipment for civilian snow removal duty (to read that story, enter http://bit.ly/1NF7BiB into your browser). This month, he explains how he got a great deal on a school bus and converted it into a troop transport to ferry his crews from site to site during snow events.
How did you first come up with the idea for the snow bus?
We needed a solution that was a safe way to move our shovel teams around. One of our managers looked into the idea of getting a school bus and found out that after a certain amount of time, all bus companies must get rid of their buses. This gave us the affordable solution that was legal and safe.
What problem were you trying to troubleshoot, and what, if any, solutions had you tried in the past before finding success with Snow Bus?
In the past we used a Chevy Suburban, which is capable of moving six additional team members. This wasn’t efficient and slowed us down when we needed to move large amounts of team members.
How did you acquire the vehicle?
We researched local bus companies and reached out to them and realized that they are always turning over buses. We invested $4,500 into it.
What type of work needed to go into to it to get it ready for the busy snow season?
It was turn-key. The only thing we did with it was paint it the Xtreme colors and letter it, and put snow tires on it. The only reason these bus companies are selling them is because of a rule in the state and because there isn’t anything wrong with the bus.
How do you assign staff to this vehicle? For example, is it the sole duty of one employee, or do people take turns driving the bus?
We assign one dedicated bus driver. When he is not moving team members, he can be dropping off food and drinks to our team members in the field. We hired a bus driver that has his special endorsement on his license. It worked well with what we do since most of the time he would not be working anyway during the storms.
Does it require specialized maintenance?
No, it just requires your normal preventive maintenance that you would be doing on anyone of your fleet vehicles.
How has the snow bus impacted your snow ops?
It has made us more efficient and gave us the edge to be able to service our clients quicker. Our clients love that we have our own bus. It makes us stand out from the competition.
And it enables us to move shovels, equipment and supplies in the rear of it. We removed the rear two sets of rows of seats to have extra room. We also use it as a supply vehicle for food, water, coffee, etc.
What advice do you have for other snow contractors who might follow in this same path and add a snow bus to their operations?
Just make sure you buy from a reputable bus company. Just like you would look at any other used vehicle check this the same way. You will be surprised on how well maintained they are.
Does the snow bus have a name or nickname?
Lastly, have you driven the snow bus and how does it handle in the snow?
Yes, I have driven the bus. It is fun to drive and has gotten through 20-inch storms down to dustings. It is very stable and handles great with the correct driver. We put snow tires on the rear to help us out just in case.
Mike Zawacki is editor of Snow Magazine.