Plowing snow, when neighborly ends and business begins....

When plowing becomes a job

Hub reader identified as Chrystal White, had been doing neighborly clean up plowing after loggers cleared their road each winter. Now the loggers are gone and the neighbors don't want to pay them to take on the responsibility of keeping the road open, "because you plow for yourself anyway".

The question I was asked:

My husband and i live up a dirt road that is 7 miles long

we are one of the first properties on the road with all of our beighbors living above us. For years the loggers plowed the road and we only helped out here and there when needed we never charged but when gas money was offered we accepted. This year there are no loggers so we have to keep the road open so i can go to work,heres the problem, There are about 6 people who use the road but refuse to pay for plowing. Our truck is old and about to break down plus no one else has a plow we figured that the job for 10 miles was worth about 250.00 per plow which comes out to a little less than 50.00 per person.

Everyone seems to think that is too expensive can i have you opinion. also we make less than anyone one elsed on and find it to be very rude. we are in northern Montana and it snows alot

Well, Chrystal White, a time honored method in America of drawing attention to a problem is to strike. I would recommend, that if your neighbors place NO value on your keeping the road open, don't do it. Write your neighbors a note in advance of the first snowfall and advise them that you do not plan to provide free plowing services this year.

Can you get to work in 4 wheel drive and not drop the blade? If you have to drop the blade because other members of your own family have to get out with regular cars,can you just plow one lane, 10 feet wide?

You say your truck is old, and that may be one reason neighbors don't place a value on the service, they think to themselves "Chrystal has owned that truck for 15 years, it's all paid for, and it's just a bit of their time they are using when they plow", but if it breaks down and needs replacement you may have to fork up between 2 and 10 thousand dollars for a used one depending how fast you need to replace it and how handy you and your husband are with tools. If your neighbors don't want to pay you now for the service, they certainly will not be around when your truck packs it in.

It might be a good idea to call a couple of the larger companies in the area that do major commercial plowing (and 7 miles of dirt road is a significant plow job) and get actual bids for the service, cause if you don't do it, someone has to, unless everybody has a 4 wheel drive vehicle at their disposal. I would bet that a 7 to 10 mile road is a bit more than $250.00 on a per snowfall basis.

In your area does a dirt road actually mean a private road? Many local governments are required to plow a road with residences on it regardless of who actually owns the road. A dirt road requires periodic grading to prevent it from becoming a series of interconnected potholes, what entity does that for your road?

Also, bear in mind that there are a few pretty good reasons not to get involved in this at all, because shifting the burden of the responsibility for keeping the road open from the loggers to yourself, you may incur some responsibility, legally, for keeping the road open once you become the only relied upon source for plowing. It's one thing to be neighborly and clean up driveways a little bit after the loggers and their 10 wheel dumps with plows go by, it's another thing to be the only one responsible for that. It's a good thing to be a good neighbor as you have and do a bit on a voluntary basis, but if it becomes your responsibility, what happens when something goes wrong?

Suppose your truck calls it quits one night at 2:00 in the morning when you get a 2 foot snowfall, and an ambulance can't get up the road? If someone loses their life cause a road wasn't open, people may well stop being neighborly and start thinking about lawsuits in this country. And don't say, no, no, that would "never" happen. It can, and has.

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