By Duane Wright
You can feel it in the air. The grass has all but stopped growing, the leaves are starting to lose the bright green color that signifies summer, and the morning air has that all-too-familiar bite when you first step outside. Winter is coming. Don’t wait to prepare.
Preparation starts in late summer when you dust off your snow and ice control equipment and perform operation and serviceability checks. Don’t be the one who waits until they see snow on the ground before connecting their snowplow and/or spreader. Poorly maintained equipment will cost you in repair costs and downtime.
Set a schedule
Mother Nature doesn’t wait for you to be ready. Establish a schedule for your preseason equipment roll out and scheduled maintenance throughout winter. Preseason checks, annual services and pre-, during and post-event checks are all part of a good preventive maintenance plan. At minimum you will want to follow the manufacturers’ recommended service intervals for your equipment.
Prepare for breakdowns
You’re eventually going to need to make a repair; and Murphy’s Law says you’ll need to execute that repair at the worst part of the storm in the middle of your route. Having spare parts is a must to keep you on the road doing the job you were hired to do. It could be as simple as an emergency parts kit that you keep in your truck or as complex as a parts room for the big fleets.
Maintaining a great relationship with your dealer is important when it comes to parts availability. Let your dealer know your service needs as well as your snow and ice control equipment density to help them stock the appropriate parts you’ll need in the future.
Servicing snow and ice equipment doesn’t stop with the plow or spreader. The truck is the key component to the snow and ice removal weapon system. Maintain your truck to maximize your equipment performance during the storm.
If you aren’t a snow-only company it can be difficult to juggle the transition from green to white services; but having a plan - even if it sometimes gets off track - will position you ahead of the game when winter services begin.
Stay ahead of the curve
1. Create a readiness schedule
: If you don’t already have a fleet readiness schedule, make one. Identify your company’s snow season kickoff date and calculate the time you need to get your equipment ready. Leave plenty of time, knowing that current season maintenance and breakdowns may temporarily derail the schedule.
2. Consider a phased approach
: Companies who perform other services may not be able to do a complete switch over to winter operations. If not, use a phased approach, starting with one or two trucks with plows and spreaders being prepared early in the event of an early storm and adding as winter nears.
3. Open communication channels
: Keep an open line of communication between all relevant parties in the company so they are aware of the maintenance program timeline.
Order parts early: The closer you get to the start of the season, the better the chance that parts will be on back order. Early on, stock major parts, such as plow pumps, spreader motors, etc., that may be hard to find in the middle of a storm.
4. Fix it fast
: Keep an equipment “first aid” kit handy. At minimum, every truck should have basic hand tools and a hydraulic hose repair kit in their truck as the first line of defense in the event of a breakdown.
5. Establish breakdown procedures
: Ensure your drivers and site managers follow protocol, including how to report problems and any required documentation.
The Preventive MaintenanceTear & Teach, available for download here
, offers a checklist of items to inspect and tend to before and during the season. SIMA also offers Operational Equipment and Best Practices training as a members-only benefit. Learn more at www.sima.org/education
Duane Wright is technical service manager for Fisher, Western and SnowEx.