There is little room for error or being unprepared when you live in a remote area. Snow removal contractor Mathew Zetterstrom knows this firsthand – he lives in The Pas, Manitoba, about 400 miles north of Winnipeg and Brandon where his Bobcat dealers are located. What makes him successful? These six steps:
1. Inspect machines in fall.
Each fall as Zetterstrom transitions from summer contracting and landscaping projects to snow removal, The Pas native carefully inspects his Bobcat S570 skid-steer loaders and attachments. He notes any mechanical work that needs to be completed before winter. Much of it he can do himself, after growing up around equipment and helping his father with his construction business.
“Maintenance is a big thing – you’ve got to keep your maintenance up here – there is nobody that does it for you,” he says. “With me being so far north, I can’t just put it on my trailer and take it to the dealership.”
2. Plan ahead for parts.
Each fall, Zetterstrom carefully plans for any parts he may need during winter and drives nearly 400 miles south to Brandon or Winnipeg to pick up the supplies. According to his sales specialist at Bobcat of Brandon, the freight to ship a single filter would cost as much as, if not more than, the filter is worth.
“I stock Bobcat parts and try to keep at least one of everything, so I have all the right filters,” he says.
3. Get the right machine for the job.
Not only does Zetterstrom contend with bitter cold temperatures, wind and snow (the area regularly receives more than 62 inches of snow), but his customers also require him to work quickly to clear snow from their properties. Speed is of the essence because Zetterstrom has more than 30 locations to clear. His newest M2-Series S570 is equipped with a 2-Speed travel option, making it much faster to clear snow.
“Two speed is mandatory for this type of work,” he says. “There are a lot of big time clearings, moving from one place to another. It really helps out to get to one place a little bit faster.”
4. Use a variety of attachments.
In some situations, Zetterstrom operates one loader with a snow blade while another operator uses a second machine with a snow bucket. Zetterstrom moves snow to the side while the second operator scoops, carries and dumps the snow. During bigger snow events, when the material is harder to push, he transitions to his Bobcat 8-foot snow pusher, which he uses to clear snow at a grocery store parking lot.
“The snow pusher tends to hug the ground a lot easier and I can push a lot more snow,” he says. “I’ve got to push the snow to one spot and sometimes I have to push it 600 feet.”
5. Consider transportation needs.
Getting around town with his truck and trailer is no problem for Zetterstrom, especially because he can haul both S570 loaders to cut down on multiple trips. He says the machines are just the right size to clear snow from sidewalks without sacrificing performance. Plus, at night he leaves the machines outside and doesn’t have any problems starting them the next morning. Other companies in his area haven’t caught onto his success, still relying on larger wheel loaders to clear snow.
6. Make sure you’re operating in comfort.
When a snowstorm hits, Zetterstrom and his operators may spend up to 18 hours in skid-steer loaders, clearing snow from local schools and commercial centers.
“When it snows, cab comfort is a big issue for me,” he says. “In my newer Bobcat loaders, I’m very comfortable wearing a T-shirt or sweater. The newer models have more room in the cab, plus they are quieter and warmer. They have come a long way since the first one I operated.”
Equipped with a Power Bob-Tach attachment mounting system, Zetterstrom’s loaders allow him to quickly change non-hydraulic attachments without leaving the comfort of the heated cab. He can switch from a snow blade to a snow bucket and transition from pushing snow to loading it in a dump truck.
When called out of town to clear snow in remote areas, Zetterstrom loads up his Bobcat equipment and gear, and gets the job done right. His annual preparations mean he is ready on a moment’s notice when a snowstorm develops, and his customers need him.