Sidewalk Clearing: The Right Way

January 29, 2019

One of the most difficult areas snow contractors have to deal with is “sidewalks”.  Most contractors shy away from this kind of work.  And, with good reason.  Too often we experience labor issues associated with getting guys to get out in the elements and battle the snow first hand.  It’s much different than from the warm cab of a truck or loader or skidsteer.  It’s cold.  It’s nasty.  It’s generally a thankless job that must be done without benefit of mechanical devices that would make the job easier.  Or – better stated – the mechanical devices that ARE used in sidewalk snow clearing are sometimes not designed for the activity.  Skid steers work well, but are severely limited in some instances.  They don’t work real well in light snowfalls, and require some rather expensive attachments in order to make them efficient.  They are heavy and transporting them can be problematic, especially during monster snowfalls.  


In my opinion the most productive piece of sidewalk snow clearing equipment is the Trackless.  A very close second would be a Holder.  Unfortunately, these units cost some large dollars.  You can buy these units “used”, but even then the dollars can be exorbitant given the snow contractors allocated equipment budget.  For a municipality or an airport – it’s a whole lot easier to cost justify the expenditure.


I’ve spent some time researching alternatives – and I’ve found something considerably more affordable, easy to use (actually, you might classify it as “fun” to operate), will replace at least a dozen laborers (possibly more) and has some versatility outside the snow arena.  Ventrac makes a unit that is ideally qualified to do lots of sidewalk work, never gets tired and is easy to operate.  When I first saw one operate – the thing that ran through my mind was “this is a small Trackless unit”.  It is articulating, four wheel drive, cab enclosed (heated) and has attachments ideally suited for sidewalk work.  The snowblower attachment cleans down to pavement.  The power broom is just like a walk-behind broom (only MUCH faster).  They even have a “V” blade for it.  I watched this machine push 12” of snow 20 yards up a 20 degree incline and not slip once…….


Best thing about it - - It has a salt spreader on the rear, made just for this machine !!!!  How many of you have tried to put a spreader on the back of a quad (or 4 wheeler), only to be disappointed in the performance (or the fact that the back end of the quad is wayyyyyy over-weight??).  Not any more – not with this unit.


And all (including attachments) for 20% of the cost of a stripped down Trackless…….


I’m not often impressed with “toys”.  The equipment we use as snow contractors has evolved over the years – we now finally have reliability and durability -  but sidewalks are still done “the old fashioned way”, for the most part.  “Innovation” is a word too often thrown around by people who are not innovators.  THIS piece of equipment will likely redefine how medium to large snow contractors address sidewalk work.


And – the thing I’m most amazed about ???   This thing has been around for over 10 years.  The Ventrac people have been hiding in small town in Ohio - about 2.5 hours away from Erie.  I went there a few days ago and looked at the manufacturing facility.  I got to play with the equipment.  I saw how it’s built.  I like it.  A LOT !!


Oh….by the way – you can put a mower deck on it too….but, I don’t much care about that sort of thing.  But, for some contractors – they could use it year round, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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