If you keep up with news and blogs you will know about the several snow removal service, Uber like, apps that are popping up this year. Before you jump on board, there are a few things you must consider. Are these apps really cost effective, convenient and efficient, better than a seasonal contract? Or is it a risk?
Please click here read the following short story to understand A Day in the Life of a Snow Removal Company.
Lets go through some basic questions about these app based services:
What kind of snow removal service is offered?
The service offered by these apps is pay as you go, or pay “per push”, as we call it in the industry. You are charged every time a truck visits your property. They don’t just show up. You have to place an order for one to come every time.
Where do the snow removal trucks come from?
These apps are essentially facilitators. They collect a list of snow removal companies in your area that are interested in doing occasional one time snow clearings. When you put through your request for snow removal, they send that info out to the local contractor, if he/she agrees to do it and confirms, the fee is charged to your credit card and the contractor comes to your property to clear the snow (some take a picture of the completed job which is then sent to you as confirmation).
Do they customize the service to my needs?
When you place your order in the app, there is an option to tell them about your property and what you need done. If it’s your basic double driveway and walk way to the front door, it shouldn’t be an issue, however, if you have more detailed needs and the contractor is new to your property, he/she may not do the job exactly to your expectation. Also, with this type of service you are likely to have a different contractor doing the work every time, so the end result may be inconsistent.
What are the prices like?
In my honest opinion, a little inflated. I won’t name any names, but some of these apps charge $40 to $100 per visit depending on how quickly you need the service done and the extent of the clearing required (number of walkways, type of driveway etc). Some charge more if it is a snow fall in excess of 10 inches etc. It’s important to remember that those managing the app need to make money and they need to entice contractors to do the service too.
Is it convenient?
That depends on your point of view. Some would suggest that signing on to a seasonal contract is more convenient because you call or email once, pay once, and you never have to think about it again. If you are very much against contracts in any shape or form, then yes, an easy to navigate app where you can call in a contractor as you please is certainly convenient. Really, any way to get out of shoveling the snow yourself is blessing I’d say.
Why do some of these apps have trouble signing on contractors?
Snow removal companies depend on full season contracts to survive in the winter.
- Plow operators and shovelers are hired on seasonal contracts, meaning companies must be able to pay their staff a constant amount monthly.
- Snow removal general liability insurance is the most expensive in the industry. Insurance brokers actually giggle when you call to get information and a quote.
- Driving in the winter eats a lot of fuel. Operators have to fuel the trucks almost daily. This is factored into seasonal expenses.
- In order to save on fuel and provide fast efficient service, companies create a route list to ensure smooth and fast travel from property to property to not burn up too much fuel navigating in traffic and upsetting client who are waiting for service.
- If you have a salt included option in your service, this means that the company must purchase mass quantity of salt to have on hand at all times. The cost of which seems to go up annually and the company must be able to have it all paid up by seasons end. This is factored into seasonal contracts.
- If you have a fleet of trucks and a crew, there are WSIB payments to make quarterly. That is factored into seasonal expenses.
- Snow removal equipment takes a beating, and must be constantly maintained. A plow alone costs between $3000 to $10,000 depending on type and whether its used or new. This is factored into seasonal expenses
Etc, etc, etc…
The list goes on, but you see the point. The reason snow removal companies prefer contracts is not because they are mean or greedy. It is because they need to know the exact amount of money they will have for the season to pay their bills, and make sure they and their crew can put food on the table all winter long.
Pay as you go services are a shot in the dark for snow removal companies.
Some of these apps and services, try to sell the idea that this is just extra pocket money for the contractor. The contractor doesn’t have to confirm and do the job, only if he/she has the time and it’s on the way. True, but how often does that really happen?
The Schedule of aContracted Snow Removal Professional
Snow removal companies normally won’t plow/clear anything less than 3cm. If it is 3cm or more, they are on the road servicing their client list as fast as possible. Usually it is all night to try and get it done by the time morning rush hours starts. After plowing all night, they go get some sleep as there are laws about how long you can drive without having slept. Then, before evening rush hour starts, after the city plows have finished and left all the windrows blocking entrances, the snow removal crews come back out to do the route all over again.
You will be hard pressed to find a properly licensed, insured, reputable and professional company to take clients on the whim for a bit of pocket cash. Most of them rather have a full route list, all there projected expenses for the season organized and not risk sabotaging their customer service record by squeezing in extra properties in between. It’s just not worth the risk any way you look at it.
Some owners have complaints about seasonal contracts and would prefer the pay as you go option the app offers.
Compaint#1: Most won’t come clear your property unless there is at least an inch of snow on the ground.
Rational Explanation: When a contractor plows he is essentially scraping your driveway and snow acts as lubricant. It’s beneficial to the condition of your driveway and his plow to not over do it. Usually towards the afternoon, the sun and temperature going up will melt that less than an inch anyway. Some contractors will make exceptions for their clients but you will have to call him to discuss.
Complaint#2: Some cap (or limit) the number of snow falls to 25.
Rational Explanation: Some do, not all. You can find companies who don’t put any limits on snow falls. But the reason some do limit is because on average 25 snowfalls is more than enough. The average number of snow falls Toronto gets is 41. Sometimes only about half of those can actually be plowed. Also, as mentioned above, most snow removal companies work on a strict budget. If they do have any employees paid hourly or if they have to spend extra money on fuel, they start going into the red. But again, there are many companies that don’t do caps.
Complaint#3: A company quoted $400 for the full season (5 months) to clear my property. What if it doesn’t snow, what am I paying for?
Rational Explanation: Firstly, this is Canada, it always snows. With that said, a snow removal contract is like insurance. You’re protected from the snow. There may be some winters where you hit the jackpot and others where you just break even. But lets break it down and do some math.
So we know that the average number of snow falls in Toronto is 41, lets say only half of those are worth plowing. So, we’ll work with the number 20.
Scenario 1: You pay $400 for 5 months of coverage ($80/mnth).
$400 ÷ 20 = $20.
So you are essentially paying $20 per snow fall. Wait $20? What prices were those apps quoting again? Lets scroll up…oh that’s right $40 per visit. Hmm… which is more budget friendly then? And do keep in mind, per snowfall and per visit are two very different things.
Lets say it’s a really off Canadian winter and in all the 5 months there are only 10 snowfalls… that’s it just ten. Lets break it down…
$400 ÷ 10 = $40
So you are paying $40 per snow fall. That lines up with the bare minimum these apps charge per visit, and you didn’t have to lift a finger. Even if the finger was to enter some info into an app. You literally not only saved money but didn’t have to give it even a morsel of thought.
Anyway you look at it, to go on contract is more convenient and more budget friendly.
So, who are these apps good for then?
These apps are not a completely awful idea. They could prove helpful for some. For example, if you normally clear your own property and are perfectly content to do so, but happen to fall ill with the flu for a week. This app would be a great help in your weakened state. Perhaps it’s not an illness, perhaps it’s a vacation you’re on. From the Hawaiian beach you can check your Weather Network app, see that there was a 5cm accumulation of snow that fell and then switch over to one of these snow removal apps and order a contractor to come clear your property in your absence.
But again, that’s only if you are perfectly content clearing your own snow on the norm and this is a one off order only. If you make a routine of this, you will be sorely disappointed in the amount of money you spent come the spring, and will realize hiring a service for the full season would have been far more convenient.
We hope this has shed some light on the facts and figures of snow removal from all ends. Perhaps it has caused you to have a new found admiration for your trusted snow removal company and will help you make educated decisions on what is best for you and your home.
HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM OUR FAMILY TO YOURS!