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Nine Tips to Keep Your Location Clear of Snow and Ice

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Operations

Winter will be here before you know it and many areas of the country will also start seeing snow. Whether locations receive a light dusting or blizzard-like condition, removing snow quickly and safely can improve the customer’s experience as well as their safety. NATSO sat down with two truckstop operators—Chris Wolf of Iowa 80 in Walcott, Iowa, and Dave Shoemaker of Shoemaker’s Travel Plaza in Lincoln, Nebraska—to learn how they keep their locations clear in the winter.

Invest in the Right Equipment: Wolf said Iowa 80 has been buying snow pushers for about four years. “They mount on buckets on end loaders and a backhoe. I can push a section that is 18-feet wide and 3.5-feet tall at a time. That cut our time in half,” he said, adding that the company removes snow from about 60 acres of the parking lot. 

Shoemakers has two pickups with plows, an International Farm Tractor with a bucket and blade and a motor grader.

Use Different Tools for Different Areas: Given the varying amentias at a truckstop, it makes sense that there is not a one-size-fits-all tool for snow removal. Shoemakers hand shovels around the fuel islands and under the canopy. Shoemaker said he also uses the snow blower on sidewalks and tries to keep after the areas before they get too bad. The company pushes snow in the larger areas, such as the driveway.

Watch for Trouble Spots: The fuel islands are one of the most important areas to clean to improve the customer’s experience. “No one wants to get out of their vehicle and step in that kind of slop or get back in,” Shoemaker said, adding that cleaning the islands can be a challenge. “The fuel islands are a problem because it gets so packed down it can take a lot to get the ice and snow pack up.”

It also becomes difficult because the area under the canopy has a tendency to freeze and never thaw out. “With the sun so low that time of year, there is not much melting time, so when it starts to melt, we usually give it an hour and then get right after it, at that time we get any able-bodied employee out there because it is such a small window,” Shoemaker said. 

Keep Equipment Moving: When a big storm hits, employees at Iowa 80 will plow all night, if necessary. Wolf recalls one storm that dumped 18 inches of snow and brought 30-mile-per-hour winds. “I think we plowed from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Now we have enough help where we have a couple people running all night and then switch,” he said. 

Find Somewhere to Put the Snow: Iowa 80 uses end loaders to pick up piles of snow and move them to a big ditch along a fence on the interstate. “We also have some big fields on the outside of the truckstop we’ll take it out there,” Wolf said.

Shoemaker said, “If there is one thing we learned push it as far as you can the first snow, because if it doesn't melt in the next week or so you soon run out of room to stack the snow,” Shoemaker said.

Otherwise, you may have to hire someone with a larger loader to come in and stack it, Shoemaker explained. “We learned that the hard way,” he said.

Stay Alert: “One of the biggest problems is watching out for the four wheelers, they will pull right in your way, or right behind you and with all the snow they get hard to see,” Shoemaker said.

Get Out Ahead of the Snow: “We try to get on with pushing snow once it gets over an inch or so,” Shoemaker said.

Invest in Ice Melt: Not only is ice an inconvenience to customers and employees, it creates a safety hazard that could lead to slips and falls. To help keep areas clear, Shoemakers uses more than a pallet of ice melt during a typical winter. “This year we tried some spray deicer, which we didn't have much luck with, we ended up spreading ice melt over the area anyway,” Shoemaker said.

To help keep things clear, Iowa 80 has a dump truck with spreaders mounted on the back. The company loads it up with sand and ice melt to keep things clear. “We got one of those last winter and they work real well,” Wolf said.

Use Your Tools to Help Customers: Snow and ice can create challenges for drivers as well, and both Wolf and Shoemaker said they do what they can to help drivers.

Snow can add significant weight to trucks, so drivers who are concerned about being overweight pull into the wash bay at Shoemakers to have employees remove ice from the bottom of the vehicles.

Iowa 80 will use its road graders to pull out Class 8 tractors that get stuck in the snow. “We’ve been out in front of the truckstop pulling trucks just to get things moving,” Wolf said. 

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About the Author

Amy Toner

Amy Toner

Toner markets NATSO products, services and meetings. She is the content editor of NATSO's core websites, Stop Watch magazine and Highway Business Matters biweekly articles. In addition, she provides creative services across all departments. Toner joined NATSO in 2006. Prior to joining the association, she served as director of membership services at an association for ambulatory surgery centers. Toner lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son.

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