Highly qualified

Heavy equipment requires highly skilled operators to avoid costly accidents, so Mike Callahan requires six months to a year of experience for all of his drivers. Operators at Callahan’s Lawn Care in Rochester, N.Y., go through a rigorous training process that starts with a video training system followed by tests where trainees must answer nine out of the 10 questions correctly before moving on to the next video.

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Scott Wilson, owner of Scott Wilson of Wilson’s Landscaping & Lawn Service in Swansea, Ill., also requires skilled technicians, and makes sure that his guys are versed in more than one aspect so that operators can plow and salt as well, sometimes at the same time. Everyone can use a snow plow truck, a dump truck, a skid steer and a loader. “There’s a cost to that; you pay a little more but the better thing is you retain them and retention is a big thing our industry,” he says.

For the past five years, he has had the same snow staff, but training never stops. He conducts an annual refresher training on the operations of each piece of equipment and making sure they’re maintaining the standards required.

Once they’re trained in the office, operators at Callahan’s complete field training. “The most difficult part about training with snow removal is there’s no way of really pre-training someone in the conditions until you have your first snow event,” he says.

He also stays overstaffed so that rookie drivers can ride along or practice in an open parking lot with a veteran. “They’ll go through the whole procedure and basically don’t leave until they feel comfortable.”

Wilson makes sure his technicians are on established routes so that they don’t get out of sync. And for added safety, he takes his operators out to properties in good weather so that they can see potential pitfalls. They also flag every corner of the lot.

That saves us on repair costs if we hit and break up some concrete or something,” he says. “But knock on wood, we’ve been doing very good in that department.”

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