With the season’s first snowfall inching closer, both private and public sectors are sweeping the dust off their snow plows.
However, this season, those services will come with an increased cost.
Mathew Lachcik, owner of Rustic Landscaping in Collingwood, said local private snow removal companies are feeling the heat of rising prices this year, which are due to a variety of factors.
“If anything, I find a lot of companies in town have not raised their prices by little bits over the years, so we’re kind of stuck in this drastic jump,” he said.
Lachcik said he’s raising prices by about 20 per cent this year to keep up with inflation and for a few other reasons.
His insurance rates have increased from about $8,000 for last season to almost $11,000 for this season.
The rising price of fuel is also hitting his business.
While Lachcik does employ summer students, he is a “one-man-show” when it comes to the winter aspect of his business. He has about 10 commercial contracts and keeps to about 100 residential contracts which he plows himself. Once the spots are filled, he stops taking on more contracts.
He says a skilled labour shortage also impacted his decision to not hire additional operators to take on more contracts.
“This is one of those jobs where you don’t want to throw anyone on a $50,000 piece of machinery and send them out at 3 a.m. to plow driveways they’ve never seen without snow and (risk) them damaging a house or a car,” said Lachcik.
He said in Collingwood proper, with the amount of new developments cropping up across town, there aren’t enough contractors for snow removal to keep up with demand.
On the public sector side, the Town of Collingwood will also feel the pinch of rising snow removal costs this year.
According to town officials, the public works department is aware of insurance impacts to all winter operations, which is being experienced province-wide.
“The Town of Collingwood did see increased costs in 2020,” said Christa Carter, manager of public relations for the town. “When we tendered our winter contract services (parking lots and roadway plowing) in 2020, (it) resulted in significant cost increases of $50,000 to $75,000 to previous contract rates.”
“Collingwood mitigated some of these costs by reviewing and altering service delivery models and essentially brought one whole route back into our internal service delivery, (which is) now being completed by municipal equipment and staff versus a contractor,” she said.
“The effect of insurance premium increases are definitely affecting the municipal level.”
Rob de Pruis, director of consumer and industry relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said the costs of insurance for snow removal is rising, not only in Ontario, but across Canada, because of an increase in the number of claims being processed within the sector.
“Generally speaking, insurance is all about risk,” said de Pruis. “The claims costs from slip-and-fall-type claims – so commercial liability claims – between 2013 and 2020, there was a 108 per cent increase across the country.”
“Snow removal has the potential for significant injuries. Because snow can be so unpredictable, we know some snow clearing removal operators may be sued even if they weren’t directly involved in the operations,” he said.
“When there are more claims, companies have to review what they’re charging,” said du Pruis.
Du Pruis said there are steps snow removal companies can use to protect themselves from frivolous insurance claims to help keep rates lower such as taking before and after photos of jobs, writing clear and thorough contracts with clients and making sure they hire skilled workers with experience.
“Once you have a claim, that can significantly impact your premiums,” he said.
If you have general insurance questions, the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s consumer information centre can be reached at 1-844-227-5422.