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Snow Plows: Do They Help or Hurt?

Hurt. But we’ll get into that. Let’s first sit in on snow plow class 101. Let’s answer the following questions:


  1. What is a snow plow?

  2. How does it work? 

  3. How much snow has to fall to justify its use?

  4. How many are used and what are some career facts?

  5. Are they more efficient than shoveling?

  6. What do they cost?

  7. What is the maintenance?

  8. What’s the most common brand? 

  9. What are the downsides for your pavement?

  10. What are the downsides for your plants?

  11. What are the effects on the environment?

  12. Why does Snow Scholars use shoveling?


(1) What is a snow plow? A snow plow is “an implement or a vehicle for cleaning roads of snow by pushing it aside” (Oxford Languages). You can mount a plow onto an existing vehicle and it can remove ice and snow. A vehicle specifically designed for snow removal is called a winter service vehicle (WSV). Winter service vehicles’ designs are usually based on a dump truck chassis (load-bearing framework). 


(2) How does it work? A snow plow works by using a blade to push snow to the side to clear it from the surface. Modern plows may include technology that makes it easier for them to stay on the road while they clean. For deep snow, the technician will raise the plow several inches off the ground to first sheer off the top layer. If they are using a V-plow position for the first pass, they then change it to the scoop or angle position to widen their pass. Snow plows are powered directly from your truck’s engine or from a pump that is powered from your engine. You might see as little as 4-5 MPG per snowfall.  


(3) How much snow has to fall to justify its use? Businesses that use snow plows want you to use their services, so most do not have a minimum-inch to snow plow. This is tricky though because, for example, instead of booking with them once for 12 inches of snow, you could end up booking them 3 times in one week for 4 inches of snow each snowfall and paying much more. 


(4) How many are used and what are some career facts? In the United States, there are nearly 2,000 snow plow operators who are mostly men. The average snow plow operator is 47 years old. The finance industry is the highest-paying for snow plow operators. The highest average wage in SeaTac, WA is $54,591. Snow plow operators are 33% less likely to work at government companies in comparison to private companies. There are more than 24,000 plows and trucks used to clear roads specifically and the data for personal plows is not complete. If you do own your own personal plow, you need a permit to plow on any public roads, as insurance will not cover any damage you do to public roads. 


(5) Are they more efficient than shoveling? In some ways, yes. There is no denying that mechanical snow plowing in comparison to more time efficient for the act of plowing. But in terms of the dispatch time, Snow Scholars will be at your door steps more quickly to start removing. 


(6) What do they cost? A snow plow attachment can cost anywhere from $600-$2,000 depending on the brand and size. That’s not to mention your car depreciates in value when you put it through adverse weather conditions. The cost of gas can be factored in as well as you will use more gas to power your car than if you were just normally driving.

 

(7) What is maintenance? You should flush and replace your snow plow’s hydraulic fluid once a year, before the winter. During the season, make sure your fluid levels are adequate. Check your plows lights to make sure they are adjusted. The life expectancy for a snow plow is around 7-10 years. 


(8) What’s the most common brand for snow plows? The most common type of snow plow is the front mounted snow plow which is designed to push snow off the road with the blade at an incline. The most common and reputable brand is Boss Snowplow. 


(9) What are the downsides for your pavement? The blades making contact with the surface can cause damage if the snow is not deep enough. Also, if any rocks are present they can also scratch the pavement as the snowplow moves them. Dragging a metal plow blade across your driveway can decrease the integrity of the concrete. 


(10) What are the downsides for your plants? Like we discussed before, snow plows lead to soil erosion that can lead to less fertile soil. This can also impact the biodiversity in your lawn that keeps your grass balanced in nutrients. Speaking of nutrients, plowing leads to soil compaction, which decreases the porosity of the soil, suffocating existing healthy plants who can’t absorb nitrogen. 


(11) What are the effects on the environment? Snow plowing is especially bad for the environment. Snow plowing releases harmful greenhouse gasses as most vehicles are powered by fossil fuels. Through runoff, absorption, and air pollution, this can contaminate drinking water and lake waters. As well, CO2 can lead to lake acidification and make it hard for fish to breathe. 


(12) Why does Snow Scholars use shoveling? Snow Scholars uses shoveling because our dedicated shovelers can clear your driveway and sidewalk without damaging your property or the environment. Shoveling allows Snow Scholars to employ more workers, which are usually students saving up for graduate school or paying rent. We may not have the fanciest snow plow on the market, but we will get the job done efficiently and well. 


~ Nina Petrosino, Snow Scholars Writer 


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