The bitter cold of winter is an excuse for many businesses to shut down. In Alaska, it’s merely the time to switch gears. To continue working through winter, Derek Broderick’s tree removal company added snow plows to two of its trucks.
“The weather here in Alaska dictates a lot of your working season,” says Broderick, owner of BlackHawk Works in North Pole, Alaska. “Everyone is frozen in time in the winter and then everyone comes out in the construction season during the summer.”
After retiring from the military, Broderick started his company with a Ford F-450 used for stump grinding and tree removal during the summer and snow plowing in the winter. Currently, he uses an F-250 and F-450 for snow plowing.
“I use Boss snow plows,” says Broderick. “I can use both plows on either truck since they have the same mount. If one plow goes down, I can flip-flop the plows and use the other one.”
As of last year, he had hired three full-time employees for the summer season. “As I was growing my business, I was working at another company. After about three years, we had such good growth that I decided to focus solely on my business. From 2014 to 2015, we grew by 52%.”
In addition to covering jobs in North Pole, Broderick’s trucks travel to Fairbanks, about 12 miles south, and as far as Delta Junction, about an hour away.
Based on its motto “We Grind, We Plow, We Clear,” BlackHawk Works can complete all of these services with its small truck fleet.
After purchasing an F-250 for snow plowing, Broderick added an F-450 with a dump box on the back; it became the company’s chip truck. When he bought a second F-450, Broderick added a custom-made chip box.
“The chip box sits on top of the F-450 flat bed,” says Broderick. “We designed it and the auto body shop built it. It also contains shelving units to store chainsaws and blowers.”
For big jobs requiring two trucks, the F-450 with the dump box can also be used with a temporary chip box. When not used as the second chip truck, this F-450 pulls the stump grinder and stores other equipment for tree removal. The stump grinder is transported by the truck and then self-propelled on wheels, he says.
In addition to trucks, BlackHawk operates several pieces of equipment including two chippers, two stump grinders, and a Caterpillar 299d used for land clearing.
BlackHawk uses the off-season to maintain its vehicles and equipment. Broderick takes his trucks to his local Ford dealership for routine maintenance checks. Although the vehicles and equipment are still fairly new, there is some wear and tear, he says.
The off-season also gives Broderick and his employees time to rest. The summer season is prime construction time, and Broderick and his team work long hours to take advantage of the longer sunlight hours and warmer weather.
“We go and go since we have so much daylight in the summer,” says Broderick. “On summer solstice, we have 22 hours of sunlight. After summer solstice, you start losing daylight each day up to winter solstice. The prime construction season is usually May through September.”