Bucket, Pusher, Plow or Blower? Listen to the Job.
by Dale Oberg, Regional Sales Manager
What’s the right snow removal attachment for your skid steer? Listen up….
To choose the ideal attachment, put your ear to the ground you’re going to clear. Hear that? It’s the project telling you how much snow you need to move and to where.
There are only four general categories of snow removal attachments for skid steers to begin with. Pay attention to those two factors – how much and where to – and the answer to which you should buy quickly becomes loud and clear.
How much? – A little (clearing), a lot (loading)
Where to? – Off of small areas or into the back of a truck
Snow buckets are the least expensive skid steer attachments for moving snow. They’re fine for limited use in some applications, but they also have significant drawbacks.
First, to clarify – snow buckets shouldn’t be confused with dirt buckets, which have much less capacity. Snow buckets are taller and deeper because snow isn’t as heavy as soil, gravel or anything else you might move and lift with a dirt bucket. Even though they’re larger, they don’t cause any additional stress on the attachment or machine.
You’d use a snow bucket in three scenarios:
- It’s a very small job and you don’t have to push a lot of snow. In that case, it probably wouldn’t make much sense to buy or rent a snowplow attachment.
- The snow needs to be loaded into a truck and removed from the site.
- You have to load salt or sand.
The issues with snow buckets are:
- They don’t have a lot of capacity compared to other snow attachments.
- They can be hazardous because the bucket is a solid piece of metal that does not give or have a tripping mechanism. If you hit a bump, crack, curb, manhole cover or anything else below the snow’s surface, that it. Boom! Full stop! And that might throw you into the windshield or worse.
It also could cause damage to the surface. For example, since there’s no give or trip, when a bucket catches a crack it could tear up a chunk of the surface. That’s why many commercial and residential contracts prohibit the use of buckets.
- You can’t angle a bucket. Once it’s full, snow is going to be pushed out the sides and you’ll have to go back to clean up the trickles. That takes extra time.
- The moldboards on many snowplows and snowpushers are tightly curved to allow for what we call “live rolling” of snow. Snow moves up the face of the plow and curls over at the top, which causes the snow to roll rather than stacking up in front of the attachment. When the snow rolls, you can move more in the same amount of time. You simply don’t get that effect with a bucket.
Many snow removal contractors own both a plow and bucket because they need the plow’s capacity and efficiency, but they also need the bucket’s lifting ability.
- How much? – Big piles
- Where to? – Out of apartment and condominium drives, areas between storage facilities, streets, etc.
Snowpushers clear away the two primary drawbacks to snow buckets: lack of containment capacity and poor safety.
You gain capacity with a snowpusher because:
- Even the smallest snowpusher has more carrying capacity than a snow bucket.
- You gain the “live rolling” effect.
In terms of safety, snowpushers have two advantages over buckets:
- The rubber cutting edges on most snowpushers fold backward when they encounter obstacles and the attachment rides right over. There’s no jolt to the operator or damage to the attachment or machine.
- Snowpusher sideplates are engineered with angled boot edges to provide a “ski over” effect; rather than jamming into an obstacle, the sideplates rise up and, again, the attachment rides right over.
So what are the disadvantages?
- You won’t be able to load salt, sand or snow.
- Since you can’t angle and windrow, you won’t be as efficient as you would be with an angle plow.
How much? – Light to heavy snowfalls
Where to? – To the edges of small to large surfaces
You gain tremendous efficiency with angle plows compared to buckets and snowpushers, and they’re much safer than buckets.
Angle plows have greater capacity than buckets because of their greater height and width. Add wings and the capacity advantage grows even further.
And while it seems counterintuitive, snowplows actually stack snow higher than buckets that lift and dump.
With a plow, you roll the attachment back and keep pushing up to the fully extended height of your boom. A bucket, on the other hand, needs to be tilted back to hold the snow, then rolled forward to drop it on the pile. You lose about three feet in the process.
And yes, compared to snowpushers, angle plows with wings are, in fact, more efficient on big lots. For proof, take a look at this head-to-head comparison video and check out a previous post on The Edge, “Snowpusher or angle plow? How to choose.”
To give you a preview, much of the greater efficiency comes from the fact that you can turn a skid steer at the ends of rows and plow both ways rather than returning to the starting point before making a second pass. You also can windrow with an angle plow rather than chasing after the snow trickles off of the end of a pusher.
For safety, angle plows have a trip-edge mechanism or full-trip blade to protect the operator, machine and attachment if there’s an obstacle strike.
How much? – Light to heavy snowfalls and small to large piles.
Where to? – As much as 30 feet into adjacent property from smaller parking/driving surfaces, or directly into the back of a truck.
A snow blower is the best way to go for moving snow away from the edges of a surface.
Let’s say you’re doing a lot of residential work and the snow needs to be moved into the middle of a yard. With a blower you can throw that snow up to 30 feet, depending on the its power and capacity. You also get a clean, square edge, and compared to using a plow, there’s much less risk of damaging the turf underneath.
Blowers are also essential in areas that get lots of snow each year and storage or stacking space is at a premium. When snow is blown it becomes much denser, so piles don’t take up as much surface area and they don’t need to be as tall. (Tall piles can block lines of sight and create dangerous driving situations.) And when more space is needed for the next snowfall, blowers do a great job of throwing piles farther from the edge of the surface.
If you need to haul snow away from a site, a high-capacity blower can be a one-pass solution. Park the truck and point the blower’s chute right into the body, clear the adjacent area, move the truck and do it again. If you have the manpower, you can clear snow even faster by having a driver roll the truck alongside the skid steer.
Whether you only need to clear one piece of ground over and over, you’re just getting started in snow removal or you’re an established operator who needs multiple attachments, the advice is the same. Pay attention to the terrain, figure out how much and where to, and you’ll be on the road to a sound decision about the right attachment for the job.