Gimme a V!

Conventional straight-blade plows have long been the weapon of choice for most snow removal contractors. V-plows are starting to catch up, though, and could rapidly close the gap now that cost control has become a primary concern for snow pros.

According to a recent survey of SnowPRO subscribers, 78% of contractors own a straight blade while 40% own a V-plow. However, the number of contractors that plan to buy a V-plow for the first time this year is equal to the number that plan to buy a straight blade (10%).

“Straight blades have historically been the strong sellers,” says Patrick Dietz, manager, product marketing for Douglas Dynamics (Blizzard, Fisher, Western). “However, given the continued focus and importance placed on factors such as increased profitability, efficiency and productivity, our comprehensive line of hinged products has been trending up without question.”

Boss has seen a similar trend. Their sales mix somewhat mirrors the SnowPRO survey results. “Our numbers are skewed just a little bit more in the direction of V-plows,” says Mark Klossner, marketing manager at The Boss Snowplow. “It largely depends on two things: the region and type of snow plow contractor.”

For instance, New England contractors tend to favor the V-plow, according to Klossner. That region gets a lot of heavy, wet snow that ends up frozen. When equipped with a trip-edge, a V-plow’s ability to “attack” this type of snow is a big plus. “When you put the plow in the V position, you can use the blade like a spearhead,” Klossner says. “That does a great job of breaking up old, crusty snow.”

More savvy contractors also tend to favor the V-plow. “A straight blade is tough, easy to use and a good value,” Klossner says. “But once a contractor uses a V-plow and learns how to change the position and move snow more accurately, he starts to like it pretty quick.”

Where the V-plow makes sense

A contractor can get by with a straight blade in just about any plowing circumstance, Dietz points out, because it moves snow from point A to point B. But it’s not always the most efficient choice. In fact, V-plows can reportedly cut plow time by up to 30% on certain properties.

“A V-plow is perhaps the best option when contractors need to be a little more creative in where they put the snow,” Dietz says. “That’s also true when contractors have tight spaces they need to get between, or experience heavy drifting on certain sites.”

Condo parking lots are a good example. “Contractors often need to direct the snow a lot more accurately, pushing it into tight spaces such as between two garages,” Klossner explains. “Another advantage of the V-plow is that you can set it to the ‘scoop’ position, giving you the ability to push snow up and over existing banks. This is really helpful when you have those spells of 15 to 20 inches of snow every other week.”

What’s holding guys back?

Awareness is the main reason straight blades are still more popular than V-plows, according to Klossner. But a contractor often becomes hooked once he gets a taste of the V-plow and realizes how much faster it can be.

Comfort level has been another obstacle. “When a contractor has cut his teeth on a straight-blade plow, it’s harder to get him to consider a V-plow,” Klossner relates. “We still bump into contractors at trade shows who say, ‘I’ve never ran a V-plow so I’m not sure I’d like it.’ The thing is: It’s not that difficult to make the transition. There is a bit of a learning curve, don’t get me wrong. But it usually just takes a couple of snow events for the average contractor to get the hang of it.”

Truck size might come into play as well. A contractor running a half-ton truck can utilize a larger straight plow than V-plow, Klossner explains. Contractors plowing a lot of larger, wide-open spaces probably want more blade width.

Price is one more issue to think about. V-plows are 10-20% more expensive than comparably built straight plows. However, Klossner says there is no question that considerable time and money will be saved over time once the contractor becomes proficient in using a V-plow.

What to look for

If you decide that a V-plow is the right plow for you, there are a few things you should look for.

First is trip-edge design. “This is a must,” Dietz says. “Because a V-plow can be configured a few different ways (straight, V, angled, scoop), it’s important that the plow can continue to trip should it hit an obstacle.” This is important regardless of which configuration you’re using.

For example, if you’re in the scoop or V position and don’t have a trip-edge blade, Dietz says the blade will likely “jump up” when you hit an obstacle, causing you to lose your load. Plus, the impact left from the inability to “trip” will likely be transferred more to your truck, resulting in possible truck damage and operator discomfort, or even injury.

The attachment mechanism is another consideration. You want a system that is fast and easy to use. Versatility is something else to think about. “You can alternate between plows pretty easily with (the Boss) undercarriage system,” Klossner says. “If you want to run a straight-blade plow on some jobs but then use a V-plow on others, you can efficiently use the same truck.”

There are obviously a host of other things you should compare when selecting a V-plow, including blade width and height, hydraulics, electrical system and controls. You can also choose between steel and poly moldboard.

Yes, you have choices. More contractors are choosing V-plows than ever before—and on certain properties, it’s proving to be the right choice.