It's Friday night in Michigan, America, and the clouds which passed over Lake Huron are getting ready to drop a few more feet of fresh snow. Soon, frozen waves from chilly snow drifts will crash onto the roads, immersing the pavements before dawn.
D&B Landscaping, one of the largest landscaping companies of its kind in Michigan, has already put in 10 hours of snow-clearing, uncovering 50 miles of roads, driveways, parking lots and even an emergency helicopter pad, with its team of Volvo compact wheel loaders: L20Bs, L25Bs and a Volvo L40B.
The company has been buying and leasing various types of Volvos for over 15 years and snow removal is 35% of D&B Landscaping's business (in addition to lawn maintenance, exterior illumination, irrigation and golf course care) but this is expected to grow alongside changing weather patterns.
Daniel Bywalec, President of D&B Landscaping, says the past two winters have been tough on the city: "We've had record snowfalls and some weeks we are bombarded.
With all of the hospitals and businesses we serve, we are a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation.
"Detroit relies on our services," he continues. "Everything has to be cleared and ice free at the hospitals for all those patients, families, doctors, nurses and emergency vehicles. Those surfaces have to be clear."
In 2007, the landscaping firm traded its competitor brand of skid steer loaders for larger capacity Volvo compact wheel loaders - after its partner, Wolverine dealership, was purchased by Volvo in 2004. As a result, it has enhanced its profits and workload capacity.
"We have increased our productivity by 30% with the Volvos," says Daniel. "The Volvo loaders are more fuel efficient and we are saving a lot of money.
"We were spending thousands replacing the tyres on our old machines because the asphalt and concrete surfaces were wearing them down," he continues. "We also had to replace the hydraulic pumps - at about $2,000 each. But the Volvos are now a few years old and we still have the original tyres and pumps."
But why are Volvo compact wheel loaders, specifically, ideal for snow removal? "The Volvo L20B, Volvo L25B and Volvo L40B are able to squeeze into tight spaces," says Mark Bywalec, D&B Landscaping's Fleet Maintenance Manager. "They have more horsepower, greater weight and more reach with the eight to 10-foot snow pusher and more clearance on the bottom between the machine and the road - that's the combination you need to move more snow, more efficiently."
And it's a tough job, with much of D&B Landscaping's work taking place after normal business hours, under Detroit's night lights.
"You don't get most of the work done and then leave at the end of the day," says Mark. "We stay with that storm until it passes and it nearly always happens at night. That could mean an 18-hour shift.
"We moved half a million cubic yards of snow last year and people say to me, 'How do you do all of this?' I take a deep breath and point to these Volvo loaders."
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