WINTER-maintenance products such as snowplows, tailgate spreaders, and vee-box spreaders traditionally have been made of metal. But what happens when iron is combined with water and oxygen? Oxidation, which leads to rust or corrosion. Throw in some salt and the scenario is amplified and accelerated.
Polymer-constructed snowplows and spreaders have eliminated most of the corrosion concerns associated with metal versions, and along with that come lower maintenance, non-stick properties, and a lighter-weight, higher-impact design.
Jay Truan, general manager of marketing/sales for TrynEx International, says the reaction to the company's new polymer models has been “phenomenal.”
Truan says TrynEx, which produces four models of tailgate spreaders and two models of slide-in-truck spreaders, has had to adjust its forecast four times since going to market with the products last summer.
“We've had a great year,” he says. “The public was just so ready for it that they devoured it. We've never had a product go from zero to 90 so fast. The reaction almost knocked us off our feet.
“Everybody's just so tired of steel. After you load your new steel hopper with salt or a salt/sand mix, you go two or three loads and already the inside surface is scratched, and then rust, corrosion, and oxidation set in almost immediately. Then it wants to grab material, and that affects your flow almost instantly.
“With the poly hopper, the inherent molecular composition secretes a little bit of oil constantly. It's a natural for keeping a smooth, anti-grab surface on the slopes.”
There is some natural resistance to polymer products because of their higher price (10-20% more than steel options) and users' loyalty to steel. But Truan says many buyers are recognizing that the reduced maintenance and longer life are strong selling points.
“We knew there would be some of the old diehards who would say, ‘Plastic? Right,’” he says. “But that area is almost gone now because so many of the things we use in the home, business, and pleasure have come full circle. Now, everything from snowplows to cutting edges to liners for dumps … the whole truck industry is not strange to polymers. People are thinking, ‘Wow, it makes sense.’ We went right for a pain spot. Steel is a pain. You don't even have to talk about the negatives.”
Poly is non-corrosive and will not scratch, pit, or scale. Though any moving parts still should be lubricated, a good cleaning after each use is all that is typically suggested for poly equipment.
Poly units are virtually maintenance-free. Some manufacturers are offering warranties up to five years on poly equipment, based on its inherent longevity and reduced maintenance concerns. Contrast that to a steel-built, vee-box spreader, which might require a contractor to spend $600 to $1,200 in maintenance costs to prepare the unit for use at the start of a season. And that doesn't include daily maintenance costs during the winter.
The natural slippery, Teflon-like qualities of poly promote a free flow of materials and help prevent buildup and clogging. The slippery surface on plows allows the operator to work faster because snow and ice readily roll off the blade. The lower plow resistance translates into reduced vehicle wear and increased fuel economy.
Operators benefit, too. With steel units, sand has a tendency to freeze and bind to the sides of the spreader's feeding hopper, resulting in a slower material flow and extra work for the operator, who has to manually remove sand clumps from the hopper's sides. As salt breaks down, it also bonds to the hopper's surface and creates a film that is difficult to remove. It's usually not enough to just rinse the surface following each use, because of the strong bond formed between salt and steel.
With poly, sand and salt naturally break away from the surface, keeping materials flowing.
Poly plows and spreaders typically weigh about half of their steel counterparts, without sacrificing strength or durability. That makes them easier to install, handle, and store. A typical poly spreader or plow can be installed by two people, whereas steel units require additional personnel or mechanical assistance. With a poly unit, a vehicle typically could be used as a spreader in the morning and then to haul extra materials or equipment in the afternoon.
Truan says the market for TrynEx's poly products includes contractors, municipalities (townships, villages, school districts), and institutions such as universities and hospitals.
“They're not necessarily interested in capacity, they're interested in ease of operation and less maintenance,” he says.