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Plow operators discuss the business

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

The saviors of people who hate shoveling and the enemies of kids hoping for snow days, snowplow drivers operate in a unique space — their businesses depend on storms that may or may not happen, with each winter season being different. Looking to gain insight into their industry, we spoke to local snowplow drivers Adam Niden, Bill Germaine and Scott Chambers.

Unsurprisingly, snowplow drivers all have another source of income, and a radius or route within which they operate. Adam Niden owns Adam Niden Painting, Inc., also does mosquito spraying and gutter work, and uses his fleet of five trucks to plow in Walpole. Bill Germaine owns B & B Affordable Renovations, Inc., and has a route that covers Westwood, Needham, and some commercial locales in Dedham and Norwood. Scott Chambers, meanwhile, is a car lover who uses his squad of diesel trucks along Millis, Medfield, Dover, a little section of Westwood that’s close to the Medfield/Dover line, Wellesley and Needham.

While his painting, mosquito spraying and gutter services happen primarily in Needham and Walpole, Adam Niden only plows in Walpole. This choice means that with his five trucks, he always has a truck covering twenty percent of Walpole, so wherever he’s needed, he can be there rather quickly.

Scott Chambers prides himself on taking any plowing job, no matter how difficult it seems — but since this attitude comes with an increased risk of a breakdown on the road, aside from having mechanical skills to fix his own trucks, if there’s a small fix necessary, he has built up a group of friends along his route so if he ever needs help, it’s always just minutes away.

“If something goes down and I can’t fix it quickly, I send it off to a friend who’s a diesel mechanic. I have a close group of friends I’ve been working with for many years, so that if something goes down, I’ve got coverage,” he explained. “If I get stuck in a driveway, I can make a phone call to one of my closest friends in the world whose route is very similar to mine, and he will be there within five minutes to pull me out.”

Although COVID-19 made a ton of jobs remote over Zoom, the impact wasn’t felt much in the snowplow industry. None of the plow drivers noted a huge downturn in demand, though Chambers did find that, as was the case with many other service jobs, it was tough to find young people looking to get into the business. Perhaps because of this, Germaine said he’d noticed the number of his competitors had thinned a bit as many people called him and explained they needed his services because their old snowplow driver wasn’t doing it anymore. 

That said, there are some perks of the job that might appeal to people. Germaine noted that there’s a cool feeling being the only one on the road, with no traffic other than fellow plow drivers. He’s been given muffins and hot chocolate, while Scott Chambers, who has some clients for whom he shoveled driveways while growing up in Wellesley, serves a woman who will bake cookies for him when he comes to plow. But no matter how much goodwill you’ve built up, Scott Chambers explained that people will leave you if you’re not there for them when you need them. So, his trucks aren’t just nice because he loves cars — they’re nice because they need to be dependable.

“My vehicles are very nice; my equipment is virtually only a couple years old. In this business it’s really about reliability, because if your truck goes down in the middle of a storm, you’re going to make a lot of people mad and you’re going to lose your business really quickly.”

But since plowing is more of a side-gig for most snowplow drivers, it’s the advertising and marketing aspect of the job that’s often the best perk for those with other businesses. 

Adam Niden said one of the primary reasons he focuses on residential, not commercial plowing — although commercial plowing makes more money — is that “the plowing gives us one more touch with them, which could give us another touch into a project on their home … One of the reason we only do residential, and not commercial, is because we know we’re going to get more painting out of it. This coming storm, people are going to see five Adam Niden Painting trucks driving all over town. And we know they’re going to look at it and say ‘You know, I need my bathroom painted or I need my kitchen painted and I just saw Adam’s truck. I’m going to give him a call.’ We’re in their head.”

The marketing aspect is what led Bill Germaine to opt for red trucks. While it’s probably safer for snowy conditions, it’s also is tough to miss what his company does. 

“I use red trucks that are all lettered the same. When I started the business a long time ago, over twenty years ago, I figured red would help people see the truck more and see the advertising better, because it sticks out like a fire truck.”   

There are downsides to the life of a snowplow driver, as well — primary among them being that because they’re so committed to being there for clients, it’s tough for them vacation to a warm climate during the winter. 

But winter doesn’t last forever. 

And so, with a month or more left for more potential snow days, the snowplow drivers of Hometown Weekly’s communities watch the roads and the weather forecasts, ready to help their neighbors dig out at a moment’s notice.

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