Bruce VanderVennen, owner of Jack’s Lawn Service & Snowplowing in Grand Rapids, MI, has been using rear-mounted blades since 1974; so it came as a surprise to him when he began to attend SIMA events that they weren’t commonplace in the industry.
“They’re very popular in Western Michigan. They will increase efficiency, both in commercial and residential work. If you’re in the business full time and have enough work to justify the cost, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the investment,” he says. “If you’re a ‘one man band’ and only plow as a side job, I probably wouldn’t recommend the added cost.”
Rear-mounted back blades can be used to pull snow away from light poles, shopping cart corrals, loading docks, and are ideal for private driveways and HOAs where you need to clear several driveways in short order. The key is the superior down pressure that allows for a better scrape.
“You can do it with a front blade but I don't believe that works nearly as well,” VanderVennen says. “Now that they have wings, that has greatly increased the efficiency of the back blade.”
Executive Property Maintenance President Bill Moore, CSP, ASM, has used rear blades in his Plymouth, MI-based company for three years, primarily on his HOA sites but is adding them to their distribution clients.
“They make it easy to clear cul de sacs and pulling driveways is so much easier than back pulling them,” he says. “My experienced operators back drag the drives, and the sidewalk crews do the walks. It saves on labor and wasted energy, and our customers love it because we deliver faster response times.”
Both agree that rear-mounted blades take some getting used to, which makes training important. VanderVennen’s team conducts a special training session each fall and spends a lot of time practicing with the blades — especially learning how to use the hydraulic wings, which allow for a more precise pull since you can control the wings to be closer to the grass or away at the flick of a switch.
“We have had zero damage in the three years we’ve been using them — and that’s largely due to our vehicles having backup cameras,” Moore says. “It does hang 3 feet off the back of the truck so we make sure the operator is trained on how to drive with the rear mount, is adjusted to the backup camera, etc.”
VanderVennen says most damage is user error, such as catching a curb with a wing; but he says improved design limits the costliness of those types of errors.
“Now they have it designed so you’ll only break a shear pin. We keep the extras in the truck so it’s an easy fix.”
Suppliers weigh in on rear-mounted back blades
BACK BLADE BUYING TIPS
- Have a clear understanding of how you plan to use them
- Get testimonials from those who use them
- Watch videos of them in action
- Have a dealer in the area that can service and has replacement parts at the ready
- Is the controller easy to operate?
- Ask if they supply a backup camera