Any good snow and ice management plan for a business should include thinking about snow and ice services. Even if you live in a typically warm region, investigating snow removal commercial contracts is a good idea—you never know when a cold snap is going to halt business—and the earlier you start, the more information you have to make an educated decision.
In this article, we’ll be covering:
- How to hire a snow removal contractor
- What questions you should ask before hiring a snow removal contractor
- How snow removal contracts work
- What types of snow removal contracts exist
- Specific information you should look for in snow removal commercial contracts
By starting your snow and ice removal contractor search early, you give yourself the freedom to search for the right service rather than taking whatever’s available. To find that right service, you need to do lots of research—look up snow and ice removal services near you, and be sure to check commercially oriented reviews, as commercial services may differ from residential ones.
Next, reach out to a few of the contractors to ask about their rates and service offerings. Get a few different quotes and compare them against the services offered. Adequate winter services aren’t just snow plowing—you’ll also want to look into deicing and anti-slip treatments like salt and sand, as you could be liable in a slip-and-fall suit even if there’s no snow on the ground.
What Does a Snow Removal Contractor Do?
“Snow removal” is a bit of a misnomer—while you may be primarily interested in getting snow out of your parking spaces, a good winter service package will include a lot more than just plowing. In fact, “snow removal” itself may mean that your provider pushes snow out of the lot or that they haul it away; that’s why it’s important to check the specifications of their service offerings.
Full winter services can include deicing, sanding, snow plowing, and snow relocation. Deicing, anti-icing, and sand application all aid in preventing slips and falls, and can be useful even if there’s no snow on the ground. Plowing and sidewalk services move snow out of the way of customer traffic, and snow relocation removes snow from your property entirely.
What Questions to Ask a Snow and Ice Removal Contractor
Now that you have some options, it’s time to narrow them down. As you’re shopping for snow and ice removal services, it’s a good idea to have some questions on hand to help you evaluate your options. Some questions you may want to ask include:
- What types of snow and ice services do you offer? Do they include de-icing or just snow?
- Do you offer seasonal, per-push, and/or full-service contracts?
- What time frame do you guarantee snow and ice removal in?
- Do you insure your coverage?
- Are you certified by any snow contractor associations, such as SIMA?
- Do you haul snow or just push it away from lots?
Get a good understanding of what services each contractor offers before signing with one over another. If possible, get in touch with some of their current or former clients to get more information about their service speed and other features.
Even a two hour delay can mean a loss in profit—one Transblue client was seeing a potential profit loss of over $24 million every snow season because of crews taking two hours to clear their site, resulting in late opening. Don’t assume that a lower rate is all you need to save money; fast, professional, insured service is worth the extra cost.
Once you’ve found the right combination of services, prices, and other factors for your needs, it’s time to talk contracts.
First of all, you do want a contract of some kind. Contracts ensure that you and your service provider understand precisely what services are being offered, what rate they’re offered at, and how long the arrangement goes on.
“No contract snow removal” more likely refers to no ongoing snow removal service—you call the service up when you need snow removed, the snow is removed, and your business partnership is ended. If you choose to hire a snow removal contractor without any business agreement at all, be sure you understand the risks.
Winter service contracts are typically offered in three different styles: “per push,” seasonal, or full service. Each company is different and may offer different services—be sure to thoroughly read their information to ensure that you understand exactly what each package is the right choice for your needs and budget.
“Per-push” or “per event” is usually the baseline for winter services. These contracts establish when a crew will come out to plow your lot, typically in two-inch intervals. Once two inches accumulate, the contract kicks in and your lot gets plowed, with prices varying depending on accumulation. For example, plowing eight inches will usually cost more than plowing two. The most important aspect of a per-push contract is that you’re charged for each service rather than a regular fee.
A seasonal contract is typically based on a fixed monthly or yearly cost. These contracts are usually good for years, and the flat cost means they are easier to budget for—you won’t be caught off guard by a particularly expensive year.
Full-service contracts are similar to seasonal contracts, but include more anticipatory work as well. If you enter into a full-service contract with a snow removal company, your agreement will likely include pre-treatment as well as responses to snowfall. For example, if a winter storm is in the forecast, a full-service agreement might entitle you to preventative salt treatments or similar services.
Again, each winter service provider is different. Not every provider will offer every kind of service, and not every service will be identical. Talk with each potential provider about their offerings so you have a better sense of what each kind of service entails. It’s better to ask lots of questions and have lots of information to sort through than to end up with inadequate coverage when you need it!
Services and costs are important, but there are other things to consider in commercial snow removal contracts as well.
One of those features is cancellation. Does the company you’re signing with have a cancellation policy? What happens if you want to terminate service early, including if you are unsatisfied with your agreement? Is it possible that the company you’re working with could cancel on you, and, if so, what time frame for notice are you entitled to?
Also pay attention to your snow removal contract dates. You should know how long your contract is good for and exactly when you can expect service. If your region experiences a freak snowstorm in June, is that covered by your agreement? Similarly, what time frame can you expect snow services in? Will you be left waiting several hours after snowfall or will you receive service right away?
You should also thoroughly look over the language used in the contract, particularly when it comes to insurance and liability. Many snow removal services have insurance that covers things like slip-and-fall accidents, property damage, and injury. You should be aware of what kind of insurance, if any, your provider carries and what is or isn’t covered by that insurance.
For example, if a customer slips and falls after a parking lot has been serviced, are you liable or is the snow removal service liable? If asphalt is damaged during snow removal, who is responsible for replacing it? Being aware of these factors ahead of time will help you reach an agreement that’s mutually beneficial and eliminate unpleasant surprises—a positive for both parties!
When evaluating potential snow removal contracts, don’t just think about cost or breadth of services offered. Come prepared with questions to ask and a thorough understanding of what different services cover, particularly when it comes to safety and insurance. Doing some research ahead of time—such as reading this article!—will help you make the right choice in booking your snow service.
Got more questions about snow and ice management? Call us to learn more about our services, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on all the snow and ice management plans we provide.
Melissa Brinks is part of Transblue’s marketing team. She enjoys relaxing outside with her dog and an ice-cold can of Cran-Raspberry La Croix.