As winter’s icy grip tightens, sidewalks across the country become blanketed in snow, posing challenges for snow removal crews. However, the traditional image of a group of workers shoveling snow off sidewalks is undergoing a transformation. With a shortage of skilled labor in the industry, mechanized solutions are emerging as a viable and efficient alternative. Let’s explore the insights shared by experts in the field on the necessity of mechanized sidewalk removal.
August 24, 2023 | Staff Editor
Labor Shortages: The Driving Force Behind Mechanization
William Fries, a seasoned veteran in the snow removal business, explains that the shift towards mechanization is a direct response to the dwindling availability of manual labor. “The sidewalks have become mechanized more and more because labor is becoming the biggest problem,” Fries pointed out. He nostalgically reflected on a time when finding someone to shovel sidewalks was a straightforward task, but those days are long gone. Fries explained, “You used to be able to get a guy for $25 an hour to shovel a sidewalk.” The labor market’s evolution has led to a change in approach, with mechanized equipment being a cost-effective replacement for the increasing scarcity of manual workers.
Greg Straffin, hailing from snow-covered New Jersey, shared insights into the impact of labor shortages on sidewalk crews. “Sidewalk crews have definitely been affected by a lack of laborers,” Straffin confirmed. He outlined how the cost-effectiveness of sidewalk machines makes them an appealing solution. “You can really justify the cost of these sidewalk machines./” In some cases you can replace between seven to ten shovelers with a power broom. Straffin emphasized the allure of mechanized equipment, which alleviates the physical strain on workers and ultimately boosts productivity.
Balancing Mechanization and Expertise: The Human Factor
From a broader perspective, Jerre Heyer highlighted the universal nature of labor shortage concerns. “Talking to contractors and dealers around the country provided insight that issue is going on in all the markets,” Heyer stated. He emphasized the importance of not just relying on mechanization, but ensuring there are capable operators as well. “Getting a mechanical piece of equipment out allows you to do more sidewalk work faster, but you still have to be able to have somebody show up to run that piece of equipment,” Heyer underscored. He stressed the need for contingency plans to ensure uninterrupted service even when operator availability fluctuates.
Adaptability in Action: Mechanized Solutions for Varied Spaces
Blake Brannon, an expert well-versed in snow removal strategies, spoke about the niches where mechanized solutions shine. “So what I have seen trending is side by sides,” Brannon observed. He acknowledged that while smaller side-by-side utility vehicles might not be suitable for narrow sidewalks, they excel in larger spaces such as university campuses. “If you’re looking at a large university or something like that with lots of sidewalks, that’s the perfect opportunity for a small plow on a side-by-side UTV,” Brannon explained. This adaptability showcases how mechanized solutions can cater to various scenarios.
In the world of snow removal, the evolution from manual labor to mechanization is driven by the ever-changing dynamics of the labor market. The insights shared by these experts shed light on the practicality and benefits of mechanized sidewalk removal. As technology continues to play a pivotal role in reshaping industries, it’s evident that the snow removal sector is navigating these changes with a balance of innovation and human expertise. As snowflakes fall and sidewalks accumulate, the industry is primed to adapt and excel in the face of these challenges.
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