Evaluation is key for snow removal contractors as they are looking to upgrade or add plows to their fleet before the winter season arrives. Contractors can choose between v-blade and straight-blade plows. While generally v-blade plows offer more versatility, sometimes a straight-blade serves as the best fit in some regions or circumstances.
“V-blades are going to be able to do cleanup a lot faster, and they’re a little more efficient and save the contractor time,” says Jen Strelcheck, product manager at BOSS Snowplow. “But if (a contractor) only gets two to three storms a year, maybe the investment in a v-plow is not worth the extra money up front.”
So, contractors should answer a few questions on their circumstances to determine which plows will work best with their fleet for the upcoming winter season. Things to consider include the frequency of needing to plow, types of contracts they service, weight rating on their trucks and experience of their workers.
Frequency of needing to plow.
For contractors working in areas of the U.S. that experience regular, heavy snowstorms every winter, v-blade plows tend to be a better option than straight-blade plows. Doug Clark, product manager at Western Products, says v-blade plows excel at breaking open holes in snow drifts 6 inches deep or more, while straight-blade plows risk getting stuck in heavier snow events.
“The deeper and wetter the snow, the more you need a v-plow to cut open a first hole and start picking away at it,” Clark says. “If snow gets deep and if you only have one plow, you need to have a v-plow.”
V-blade plows also offer versatility, as the plow wings can transform into a straight-blade with the push of a button. Clark suggests mom-and-pop contractors working in areas that experience heavy snowfall rely on a v-blade plow to get jobs done since v-blade plows can perform the same tasks as a straight-blade plow and more.
For contractors based in less snowy areas that may only experience two snowstorms in a given season with minimal snowfall in each event, a straight-blade will do the job well at a lower cost. Clark says this is traditionally true in warmer regions. “Then you probably have one straight-blade that you uncork about twice a year, if that,” he says.
However, Strelcheck says contractors in warmer areas shouldn’t immediately count out v-blade plows. She says they should consider the depth of snow they receive for each storm as well.
“Even if you only get one or two storms a year, if those storms are pretty heavy, you’re going to want something that cuts through snow a little easier,” she says. “If you were to choose a v-blade, that one is going to cut through the snow in v-position better than what a straight-blade could do in the same situation.”
Types of contracts serviced.
In general, v-blade plows perform jobs quicker and more efficiently than straight-blade plows. But Tyler Jones, product marketing manager at Fisher Engineering, says contractors should take their specific contracts into account.
“(Contractors) have to ask themselves how are they trying to grow their business,” Jones says. “What opportunity are you pursuing?”
For contractors that want to have a niche in driveways, he says they should opt for a compact, smaller vehicle, which usually works best with a straight-blade plow due to size limitations. Also, for contractors that want to plow roads for a municipality, he says the straight-blade plow works well.
“A v-plow is not really able to shine on a road because they don’t need maneuverability,” he says.
But, for the contractor who wants to do a little bit of everything and for those focused solely on commercial parking lots, the v-blade plow has advantages with better maneuverability and agility.
“The v-plow will be the most universally beneficial for any segment,” Jones says. “So, a guy who wants to do a little of everything will have the most success with a v-plow.”
Weight rating on trucks.
Contractors need to outfit their trucks with plows that match the vehicle’s weight rating to avoid damage. Clark says contractors don’t want to put too large of a plow on a vehicle. “Certain trucks can handle a certain amount of weight and no more,” he says. “If you get too much weight on the front of a truck, you will begin to endanger the frame.”
Putting too large of a plow on a vehicle also impacts handling, and Clark says it will take an operator a longer distance to brake.
Typically, v-blade plows are heavier than straight-blade counterparts. Clark says an 8.5-foot v-blade weighs more than an 8.5-foot straight-blade, even though they’re the same length. He notes that lighter-duty trucks might be better when paired with a straight-blade plow, with that consideration in mind to keep trucks in safe working conditions.
While v-blade plows tend to weigh more and don’t fit on smaller vehicles, Jones says he’s seen more manufacturers introducing lighter-weight v-plows to address this concern.
Strelcheck says a common misconception she sees with regard to weight rating deals with diesel vehicles.
“When a customer goes out and buys a big, heavy-duty diesel truck, they’re expecting to be able to put the biggest, best application on that truck,” she says. “With diesels, the engine and all the components in the front of the vehicle are much more heavy than a gas engine, which takes some of that weight rating away from the plow application. So, you have to put a much smaller plow on a truck than you think would be outfitted for something much heavier.”
To make the right buying decision with regard to weight, Strelcheck advises contractors to consult a dealer on the best fit. She says most manufacturers have a plow-selector tool to help buyers.
Worker experience levels.
Operator experience plays a slight role when it comes to deciding which type of plow to buy. With more moving parts, v-blade plows require more skilled operators than straight-blades.
“If you have a lot of temporary or seasonal workers, they may or may not have the skill set to operate a more complicated plow like a v-plow,” Clark says. “When you’re in a fleet with less-skilled users, you’re going to want to hand them a straight-blade.”
For contractors that have skilled and unskilled workers, Clark recommends having a mix of v-blade and straight-blade plows in their fleet to ensure they can complete jobs efficiently but also not worry about hurrying to train inexperienced operators to use more complex machines.