Equipping those who want to do more

Sept. 1, 2002
TO SOCCER MOMS (and dads), soccer at least in theory should be a relatively inexpensive game to play. Unlike football, there's no elaborate equipment

TO SOCCER MOMS (and dads), soccer at least in theory should be a relatively inexpensive game to play. Unlike football, there's no elaborate equipment to buy. Just a ball, a pair of shin guards, and a pair of shoes with a swoosh on the side.

But that's only if you want to “just do it.” If you are serious about playing the game, an entire industry is out there to help players do their best — and an endless schedule of tournaments to demonstrate those highly honed skills.

Today's snow and ice control industry is a lot like that. There's much more required to play the game now than just buying the basic equipment. For players who take snow and ice control seriously, a wide range of products are available to enable them to do the best possible job of keeping our streets and highways safe in the winter.

A recent exhibition in Chicago at the end of August spotlighted some of the advanced technologies on the market — including radar for measuring truck speed, lasers that measure road temperature as the truck is driven, and web sites that enable supervisors to close icy roads via the Internet from the comfort of their living rooms. Sponsored by Force America, the exhibition showed how all of these technologies work together to improve productivity, lower costs, and maximize road safety during icy weather.

In addition to demonstrations of snow and ice products, the exhibition also included seminars on key concepts related to the equipment. The story on liquid deicing (See Page 16) came about as a result of that event. Look for other stories on municipal bids and basic hydraulics in the months to come.

According to our annual survey of snow and ice equipment manufacturers, the outlook for this segment of the truck equipment industry looks promising — at least for the basic products that our survey tracks.

We received responses from most of the major manufacturers of snowplows, hopper spreaders, tailgate spreaders, combination dump bodies and spreaders, and underbody scrapers. Here's what they told us:

Snowplows for light-duty trucks should post modest gains this year compared with the 2001-2002 season. We received input from eight manufacturers of these products. On average, they expect a 4% sales increase.

Snowplows for medium and heavy trucks should grow by 10%, according to the forecasts of nine manufacturers.

Manufacturers of hopper spreaders were the most bullish. The seven manufacturers on average are predicting a 21% sales increase for the 2002-2003 season.

Tailgate spreaders should increase approximately 16% this winter, according to the average forecast from five manufacturers of this product line. One spreader manufacturer explained the higher expectations (compared to snowplows) this way:

“Spreaders are becoming further apart from snowplows in their selling habits,” he said. “Spreaders have become more like a fire extinguisher — an emergency type of equipment. Even with light winters that do not require frequent plowings, there is always plenty of ice. In surveying end users, we find that for every time they plow, they salt seven to nine times.”

Combination bodies — those that combine dump body and spreader applications — are expected to be virtually unchanged from last year's levels. We had seven of these manufacturers contribute their sales forecasts this year, resulting in an expected nudge of 1% when compared with last year.

Underbody scrapers are another product line that manufacturers anticipate will remain near last winter's sales. The three manufacturers on average expect sales of their product to edge up 2% from a year ago.

Although the average forecast for all of these products was in positive territory, manufacturers pointed to some market factors that tempered their enthusiasm. The most universally cited drag on the market last year was the lack of snow. Several manufacturers pointed out, however, that a good snowfall early in the season would work wonders for demand.

“I think consumer confidence has to pick up significantly before we have a chance at record sales,” one snowplow manufacturer told us. “With a mild winter last season, sales will probably start slow. But if we see an early snowstorm — which is predicted — sales could be good the fourth quarter.”

This issue of Trailer/Body Builders contains a showcase of products for those who have to do more than “just do it.” The equipment is there. Now it's up to Mother Nature to provide the playing field where contractors and municipalities will demonstrate just how well they can play the game.

About the Author

Bruce Sauer | Editor

Bruce Sauer has been writing about the truck trailer, truck body and truck equipment industries since joining Trailer/Body Builders as an associate editor in 1974. During his career at Trailer/Body Builders, he has served as the magazine's managing editor and executive editor before being named editor of the magazine in 1999. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.