When blinding blizzards bury the greater Detroit area, a team of versatile Volvo Compact Wheel Loaders ensure the critical, safe passage for thousands.
It's 9:30 p.m. on a Friday. The Weather Channel says there's a bigger one on the way.
Mark Bywalec hears that the clouds which passed over frigid Lake Huron are getting ready to drop a few more feet of fresh snow. That's not to mention the snow drifts from this "nor'easter" that'll look like frozen waves on the road before dawn.
On this day, Mark and the guys at D&B Landscaping of Livonia, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, have already put in 10 hours. They uncovered over 50 miles of roads, driveways, parking lots and even an emergency helicopter pad with their team of Volvo Compact Wheel Loaders.
Mark, D&B Landscaping's Fleet Maintenance Manager, watches the swirling mass on TV and knows it'll soon be time to go out and battle the storm all over again.
"It looks so pretty," his wife says at the window.
"I know, honey," Mark quips, "But I may not be home again until Tuesday." He's probably right. D&B Landscaping is one of the largest companies of its kind in Michigan, with over 2,000 commercial and residential customers.
That Isn't the Case.
All of the 25,000 people who, on average, go in and out of the Henry Ford Health System branches in the Detroit area may not know it, but they are counting on D&B Landscaping to maintain a safe passage and clear parking lot, no matter the time of day or severity of storm.
Once a Case equipment user, D&B Landscaping has been buying and leasing various types of Volvos for over 15 years of its 37 in business.
Daniel Bywalec, President of D&B Landscaping, said the past two winters have been tough on the city.
"We've had record snowfalls. Some weeks we are bombarded. And with all of the hospitals and businesses we serve, we are a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation.
"Everything has to be cleared and ice free at the hospitals for all those patients, families, doctors, nurses, emergency vehicles, everyone. Those surfaces have to be clean."
Snow removal is 35% of D&B Landscaping's business (in addition to lawn maintenance, exterior illumination, irrigation, golf course care, residential support and other services) and is expected to grow along with changing weather patterns. According to the Michigan News, 2008 was the "snowiest" year in Detroit since 1880.
The Work of Art.
Thanks to sales representative Art Montana of Wolverine Tractor & Equipment Company of Southfield, Michigan, D&B Landscaping has enhanced its profits and workload capacity by trading its Case skid steer loaders in 2007 for larger capacity Volvo Compact Wheel Loaders.
The landscaping firm now has two Volvo L20Bs, a Volvo L25B, and a Volvo L40B.
"We have increased our productivity by 30% with the Volvos," Daniel stated.
"And we're going to be leasing a few more of them this winter. The lease program for the Volvo machines is excellent. We couldn't get better service and if anything goes wrong, the units are under warranty, so Wolverine picks the machine up, services it for us and we don't pay a dime out of pocket."
But why, specifically, are Volvo Compact Wheel Loaders ideal for snow removal?
Art Montana answered, "These units have more capacity, horsepower, greater weight, 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."
Hit the Skids.
It all comes down to tires, visibility, capacity and safety, Daniel explained. The tires and hydraulics on the Case skid steer loaders were an expense leader for D&B Landscaping for years.
"We were spending thousands each spring replacing the tires on the skid loaders. Running the skid loaders on the asphalt and concrete surfaces with that steering mechanism ate up sets of tires. Each tire cost $250 to replace. We also had to replace the hydraulic pumps - at about $2,000 each.
"The Volvos are now a few years old and we still have the original tires and pumps."
In the D&B Landscaping Fleet Maintenance Department, Mark Bywalec oversees three mechanics and a part-time assistant, 65 trucks, 28 trailers and 10 front end loaders. Mark and Daniel's brothers also help manage D&B Landscaping. Robert is Vice President of Sales and Ronald is Division Manager for Lawn Irrigation.