October 27, 2022

Winter Is Coming: 5 Challenges Facing The Commercial Snow and Ice Management Industry

Business Management
Winter Is Coming: 5 Challenges Facing The Commercial Snow and Ice Management Industry

It's almost time for winter to hit! The commercial snow and ice management industry is gearing up for its busiest season.

Fall has arrived, bringing along shorter days, chilly nights, and changing foliage. And now that fall is here; the snow season is not far off. With a chilly winter around the corner, snow removal businesses are geared for what could be a difficult winter season. 

It's time to step up with your snow removal services to your landscaping businesses and prepare for the upcoming season.

The snowy season presents a fantastic chance for business growth. It can be extremely profitable. However, it also presents a special set of challenges due to coping with- erratic weather patterns, laborious physical demands, and equipment issues.

5 challenges for the commercial snow and ice management industry

Today, the commercial snow and ice management industry is reeling from a universe of changes. As a snow removal business owner, you should prepare yourself to face the following commercial snow and ice management industry challenges this season.

  1. Labor shortage
  2. Slow adoption of new technology
  3. Extreme weather conditions
  4. Imminent pressure to choose sustainable snow removal practices
  5. Getting accurate time, cost, material, and labor estimates

Labor shortage

If you have been actively recruiting for the upcoming snow season, you would know about this.

In 2022, employee retention is a hot topic as many businesses try to comprehend the effects of the so-called "Great Resignation." Numerous employees are quitting their employment, some with or without prior notice. Alarmingly, the issue of employee "ghosting"—where employees simply quit turning up altogether—has gotten worse, leaving companies rushing to patch things up.

The difficulty is nothing new for the commercial snow and ice management industry. The rigorous nature of the work and erratic hours make it challenging to find and retain excellent employees. This leaves many business owners losing sleep. 

Finding reliable personnel to clear sidewalks, HOAs, malls, etc., which primarily includes operating a snowblower, is the top-of-the-mind problem every year. Some contractors this year have been unable to deliver on their contracts due to the general labor shortage. For instance, of the 1,500 personnel normally employed over the winter, Washington is 140 staff short.

Additionally, the pandemic exaggerated the labor shortage even more, making it difficult for many snow removal contractors and snow plowing companies to keep up with demand.

Some businesses are operating with up to half of their present employees missing, which is unfortunate given that winter is already here. In order to maintain economic success as another calendar year begins, many contractors, municipalities, and in-house operations in the commercial snow and ice management industry are expecting to fill at least 20% of their operations.

This winter, hundreds of snowplow drivers are needed nationwide, which has led to some communities raising wages to $310 per hour and providing $2,000 "snow bonuses."

Adoption of new equipment and technology is slow

Extreme snowfall can reduce any commercial and residential business’s capacity to handle daily work by up to 50%. This can lead to delays or, worse yet, serious accidents. 

Snow removal is a tremendously lucrative sector even though it is a seasonal job. But it's undoubtedly not simple money.

When it begins to snow, everyone in the region demands your service promptly and simultaneously. Immediately, you must send all of your fleets to the appropriate locations with the appropriate snow plow trucks and snow blowers.

However, providing successful snow-clearing services entails much more than merely showing up at a project site and clearing snow and ice. 

Your snow and ice removal company must do the job on time and with efficiency. To tackle the labor shortage problem, you can turn to productivity-improving software and hardware. For instance, the switch from vehicles and plows to construction machinery, such as skid steers, compact track loaders, wheel loaders, compact wheel loaders, and backhoes, offers considerable operating advantages for large commercial snow removal contractors.

You can automate manual tasks in your sales processes and streamline operations by utilizing the appropriate tools.

Here's what tech can handle

Adopting technology and incorporating innovation into their workflows and operations can help snow and ice removal businesses improve their productivity and overall bottom line. By leveraging technology, these commercial snow and ice management businesses can improve their efficiency and reduce the amount of time and resources required for snow and ice removal.

Aspects tech can take care of:

  • Employee management
  • Scheduling and dispatching
  • Consistent and timely communication with staff and customers
  • Cost estimation
  • Fleet optimization
  • Solving logistics issues
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Vehicle tracking
  • Maintaining client relationships via automated follow-ups
  • Workflow management
  • Billing and invoicing
  • Complying with the latest truck driving and environmental laws

However, the industry is slow to adopt the latest technology when it comes to automating most manual tasks. 

But let's face it, the latest tools and technologies make work easier to access and more effective. Having the necessary tools and equipment can make the heavy lifting that much simpler. Because clearing snow from both residential and business buildings is laborious and time-consuming. It takes much more than just attending to incoming requests to run a successful snow removal business. Hence, don't overlook the strategy that goes into it.

Think about the tools you presently have for managing your business. Include the tools for managing snow and ice, the software stack used by your sales team, communication tools, invoicing, hiring, and other functions. You should spend money on new equipment and training. When? If you're observing delays or inefficiencies, doing so will make your job much simpler and give you a better return on your investment.

Besides, the commercial snow and ice management market is getting cutthroat every year. As a result, you either witness profitability, struggle with survival, or die trying.

Extreme weather conditions awaiting the commercial snow and ice management industry

The Farmers' Almanac predicts that states in the North-Central United States will have exceptionally cold temperatures in the middle of January, possibly reaching 40°F below zero.

The snowfall is expected to be above average, and temperatures are predicted to be below average. Late January and mid to late February will be the coldest times of the year, with a constant stream of snow showers.

Additional Read: Why is Historical Weather Data Critical to Your Snow and Ice Removal Business?

For many places, including Texas and Oklahoma, where significant snowfall is expected during the first week, January 2023 appears to be the stormiest month ever. For the Southwest states, on the other hand, dry winter is anticipated.

There are more changes in weather patterns than ever before. This is according to many snow removal businesses in the Midwest, especially across Wisconsin and Minnesota. A survey by Snow Business reveals that 39% of participants noticed an increase in ice or mixed precipitation.

This means snow and ice removal businesses must gear up for a busy snow season overcoming the labor shortages and with the right tools in their arsenal.

Imminent pressure on commercial snow and ice management businesses to choose sustainable snow removal practices

With environmental concerns on the rise, there’s imminent pressure on snow and ice removal businesses to turn to sustainable practices. Why, yes! Chloride salts, such as sodium chloride (common table salt), calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, and others, have been the industry standard for many years. 

However, due to the extensive usage of road salts, average chloride concentrations in the environment have significantly increased during the past 20 years.

Imagine the harm salt can do to the road itself. Especially if it can cause rust damage to your car just from driving on salted roads. The materials used to build roads, crossings, pavements, parking garages, and sidewalks can start to deteriorate when they are heavily coated in salt.

In rare situations, as salt soaks into the concrete, it can impair the material's structural integrity, leading to potholes and other damage to the road. Salt can also quickly damage train tracks in locations where there are many railroad crossings on public roads. The highway and automotive industries in the United States are predicted to lose $3.5 to $7 billion annually as a result of this damage.

The environmental costs of utilizing conventional road salts have been a growing worry. Especially as residential and commercial customers have become more environmentally conscious. This has increased interest in more environmentally friendly methods of removing snow.

  • Utilizing new-age ice melt products to reduce waste
  • Using products without chloride salts

Mixing these two elements to increase their potency is the secret to sustainable snow removal.

Being proactive and avoiding the formation of ice in the first place is the greatest method to save waste when using ice melt solutions. The most economical and environmentally friendly method of preventing ice buildup is anti-icing. It involves administering ice melt before it occurs. Studies have shown that applying ice melt after the ice has formed only uses 1/4th of the material and 1/10th of the costs of anti-icing.

That's why all the snow removal tips online lately have been leaning towards urging snow businesses to become more sustainable in their operations.

Getting accurate costs for materials, services, and equipment

The greatest opportunity for managers to increase productivity and control costs relates to the fleet of equipment and the materials used for removing snow by getting precise estimates.

Strategic mapping and planning help minimize problems on the job site. Snow mounds placed strategically can reduce runoff and refreeze. Inappropriately placed snow heaps might obstruct parking spaces and make it challenging to navigate the site visually. Effective planning in removing snow can improve site functionality and visitor flow.

How do BDs usually measure properties?

There are two popular methods used widely for mapping and measuring sites before snow removal: physical property measurement (or eyeballing the site) and using Google Maps.

  • The former's drawback is that it takes a lot of time. In addition to the unavoidable logistics and travel needed to complete the measurements, it may take several field service representatives to complete the task.
  • A contractor is only permitted a certain number of site checks per day. The number of potential leads one can interact with at one time is significantly decreased as a result.
  • When it comes to the latter, this method reduces measurement data accuracy. Because it necessitates manually drawing polygons on the maps.
  • The outcome is either an underquote or an overquote. This leads to inaccurate budget estimations along with a poor reputation for dependability with customers.

What this means is that property measurement using existing methods is a time and resource-consuming process. And thus it becomes a severe bottleneck in closing deals.

What can help?

Here, automated property measurement tools can help you effectively convey your professional snow removal approach to clients, subcontractors, and crews. How? By measuring parking lots and walkways, identifying lot impediments, speed bumps, light poles, building entrances, drains, and more.

Attentive.ai property measurement software, Automeasure makes property measurements easier for you and simplifies your sales process. It can significantly transform how your snow removal company operates. With Automeasure, users can get fully automated site measurements. 

Attentive.ai can save your commercial snow and ice removal business significant amounts of working capital by reducing up to 95% of the time spent on property measurement using traditional methods.

To know more about how we can help your business drive revenue, schedule a personalized demo here.

Over to you

As we can see, snow removal can be a huge pain each winter, but you aren’t alone! The industry is deeply inflicted with labor and supply chain issues, slow adoption of technology, incorrect estimates making it more difficult to obtain materials and equipment in time for the winter season, and the imminent need to turn to sustainable practices are continuing challenges. However, while it will take time to resolve these issues, the industry is expected to persevere and adapt.

BDs belonging to snow and ice removal companies can now reduce waste, overall material consumption, and guesswork, lowering inventory, labor, and associated costs while increasing efficiency with technology. 

Turn a new leaf today.