Commercial Snow Service Consumer Tips

Consumer Tips: How to Find a Winter Service Provider

Finding the right winter service provider for your property’s specific needs can be tricky. Whether you are looking for a provider to clear a small driveway, a five-acre parking lot, or something in between, there are many things you should consider. So what should you look for in a winter service provider? The following is a good checklist that was adapted from the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA) and our own years of experience serving the Central New York area:

Not all properties are of the ‘cookie-cutter’ variety. Some may need more or less attention than most when it comes to snow removal. Make sure your service provider can accommodate ALL of your potential snow service necessities before you consider signing a contract. What are the specific needs that your property calls for?

  • What are the boundaries of the lot to be serviced? Are there satellite lots that need attention as well?
  • Do you have sidewalks or walkways that will need shoveling? Is the municipality potentially responsible for the sidewalk?
  • Do you require applications of de-icer on either the lot or the sidewalks?
  • What time of day does the snow need to be cleared by (open/close times, delivery times, 24-hour access etc.)?
  • Do you require a return visit the day after a snow event to clean up after clients/residents have moved their vehicles?
  • Is there a potential for requiring off-site snow removal?

This item should be non-negotiable. Proper insurance is at least General Liability, Worker’s Compensation Insurance and also an Umbrella Liability policy to be fully covered. If they do not have the proper insurance coverage, their bid should not be considered. Why? You must consider the cost to you if anything should happen on your property and your service provider is uninsured or under insured. It is not worth the risk!

You should look for a provider that is knowledgeable and keeps current on changes in products, equipment and technology. Do they belong to any professional organizations? Affiliation with a professional trade association (such as SIMA) indicates that the service provider is interested in excellence and keeping up-to-date with the industry.

Another important factor is the size of the service provider. How much equipment does the service provider operate and what condition is their fleet? Will you still be serviced even if a plow truck or two broke down? Make sure any service provider you consider has in-house contingency plans in place and a surplus of well-maintained equipment to keep seamless service and your business operational.

Any company that is established and reputable will be able to provide a long list of references. Make sure these references are similar to the size and scope you require. Just because someone can plow a residential driveway does not automatically correlate to being able to service a dentist’s office or 24-hour restaurant effectively.

A contract should be used to clearly define the level of service provided, the pricing of those services, and payment terms. It should also disclose the cost of additional services (off-site snow removal, on-demand de-icing etc.) should they be required. Area measurements and site maps of the area(s) to be serviced should be included with the contract and be clearly marked and verified. Be extremely wary of any contract with the phrase ‘as needed’ or other similar terms. Who decides when a service ‘is needed’? This is very vague and can lead to dangerous legal situations down the road if there is ever an issue.

There are a few schools of thought as to how to price winter services. Here in Central New York, we highly suggest signing with a service provider who uses a seasonal price based on a snow-depth trigger (typically 2″). This type of service covers your property the entire season at the agreed contracted price whenever the snow reaches 2″ in depth. We know that it is going to snow, and keep snowing in this region. Winter storms, nor’easters, LAKE EFFECT and every other type of snow hits us every year. It is best to know what you are going to pay and know that you are fully covered no matter how bad the snow flies.

Some commercial clients request or require a ‘per-push’ price, a ‘pay-per-inch’ structure or even a ‘per truck/per hour’ payment. In our experience these contracts will result in much larger overall charges than signing an unlimited trigger-based per season contract.

It is important to make informed decisions based on sound advice and your past experiences. Does your current service provider have the financial position to survive economic slow periods, fix and maintain snow removal equipment, carry the necessary deicers and provide the necessary staff to service your property? Can they handle an unexpected storm or equipment breakdown? Is your current level of service lowering your exposure to potential litigation due to slip and fall accidents? If your answer is ‘yes’ to all of these questions, why change? A long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with your service provider is in your best interest. We at J and R appreciate loyalty, even if it is not with us. But if you do want to potentially make an adjustment, give us a call and we will be happy to help!

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8076 Thompson Rd. Cicero, NY 13039 | (315) 699-4971


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