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What is a Snow Plow?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 23, 2024
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A snow plow is a piece of equipment specially designed for the removal of snow and ice caused by winter storms. It may be used to clear roads, paths and streets as well as airport runways and railroad tracks. Some snow plows are created by attaching special accessories to existing machines and others are self-contained, single-purpose pieces of equipment.

Although not technically snow plows, various types of snow moving equipment are referred to as plows. These include front-end loaders, pickup trucks equipped with snow pushing blades and all terrain vehicles (ATVs) with special attachments. Skid steers and compacting equipment are also commonly used to clear and pack snow and ice blocking ingress and egress points.

In recent years, manufacturers of snow and ice removal equipment have designed plows and similar devices that make the job easier and more efficient. In addition to providing equipment for commercial, industrial and municipal use, companies are now making snow plows geared toward residential use. The manual method of using a squared off shovel to clear home driveways may someday be replaced by one of these innovative machines.

A straight snow plow is a simply constructed and easily manipulated piece of equipment. This model of snow plow is often preferred by operators who remove snow from large areas such as the yards, driveways and parking lots of schools, shopping malls and large business parks. The operator must constantly make passes to clear snow in a direction away from the building and ensure the blade is always angled toward the property’s perimeter. The objective with this machine is to push the snow to an area as far away from the buildings as possible.

If the snow has drifted into walls that have solidified into ice, a V-plow is a good option to remove the snow. The blade can be angled to cut through an icy wall and then repositioned to push the snow into stacks along the property’s perimeter. To scrape and carry the snow into piles with little or no spillage, the blade can be placed in a scooping position.

Snow pushers, also commonly referred to as box or containment plows, are attached to various types of heavy equipment. They are normally attached to a small utility tractor that many homeowners use to mow grass. Skid-steer loaders as well as regular loaders and backhoes can also be easily equipped with snow pushers. The advantage of this type of snow plow is that it efficiently contains the snow and eliminates the need to keep plowing to pick up spills.

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Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Jan 02, 2015

Since I have never driven a snow plow of any kind, I cannot say for certain, but I imagine that the machines made specifically for plowing snow are better than tractors and trucks that simply have snow pushing equipment attached to them.

I like the snow boxers for removing snow on our property. They are much more convenient than the plows.

By mobilian33 — On Jan 01, 2015

@Feryll - I live in the mountains. I was born in the mountains and I grew up in the mountains. We can get a foot of snow with one single snow fall. In fact, the economy of many of the communities around here depend on the snow and all of the skiers and tourists who come to visit because of the snow.

However, I still don't see any of the traditional snow plows like mentioned in this article -- the ones that are made specifically for clearing snow off of roads and streets. The counties around here just stick the snow moving blades on the front of the big trucks.

Using the trucks makes more sense because they can be used for different things year around. It would be too expensive to buy tractors that are only used for moving snow.

By Feryll — On Dec 31, 2014

I live in an area where we do not get a large amount of snow during the average year. Going without snow for several years is not uncommon in this area. Because of this, I was under the impression that all snow plows were comprised of one of the state utility trucks with a snow pusher attached to the front.

These are the only types of snow moving machines I can recall seeing. I'm guessing this is not the case in places where yearly snowfall is measured in feet instead of inches.

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