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Leaf collection in residential areas

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by ALBsun1, Dec 15, 2007.

  1. ALBsun1

    ALBsun1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 114

    Okay, this is a question for anyone who runs a leaf loader collection unit and does all residentials. In your cities, does the city have a leaf collection service for their residents, where they can put their leaves curbside and be picked up? I know that in some areas cities make contractors haul all of their debris away. In most of the areas where my customers are, a collection service is available in the fall/early winter, and they collect the leaves i put out at my jobs, the piles being noticebly larger than neighbors who choose to do their own as i get all the leaves where as they probably do a half a$$ job. My question is this, if this service is available and you still run your own leaf truck and collect and dump, why do you do it? Personally, if i were faced with the communities telling me i had to haul away leaves, i don't know that i would even bother with doing it. it would cost me probably 10k to get a good setup, and i would have to charge extra for hauling and dumping. Furthermore, some of my clients are rather tight with a buck and would raise holy hell with the city and would probably do their own shotty job before hiring me to do it for more. I know it looks real professional to have a nice setup, and being a toy guy just like everyone else, i would probably get a kick out of it, but, come on, why do it if you don't have to.
  2. grassaholic

    grassaholic LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 369

    You should only do it if there is no leaf pickup in your area. I have a cabover truck with a 23hp Billy Goat vac mounted directly behind the cab. Right behind it is a 10 ft. dump bed with a box built on it. I use it to suck up piles of grass and leaves from my Walkers. I collect grass all year because I like the quality of cut that my Walkers leave. They leave my properties looking better than the competition. Most of my customers live in half million dollar homes on up to the multimillion dollar estates. The Walkers keep the grass out of the landscape beds, off of parked cars, and out of water features. They are also good for picking up trash and awsome for leaf clean ups. I charge a little more than other grass cutters in my area, but my customers seem willing to pay for it. I think it really helps to seperate me from everyone else thats running around cutting grass.
  3. JayD

    JayD LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,062

    You have any pix of this setup?
    Sounds like you got a good thing going there, and your right, you do set your self apart from the average.
  4. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Leaf sucker truck or not, a money maker it isn't.
    Doesn't matter if I load by hand I have the labor, if I have the equipment there is that cost, so even my 6x12 trailer with the old tarp and rake method is comparable in cost to the blower trucks, if only my back wouldn't hurt so bad :laugh:

    So it entirely depends on the city or county ordinance, whether they do it for free, charge for it, or don't do it at all. Around here the city of Richmond takes care of it at no cost, but Chesterfield County does nothing, so it varies from one locality to the next, it is even possible an HOA has such an arrangement as well, but you have to find this out in your area.

    Most of the time if the city or county picks it up at no charge it would be foolish to attempt to convince a customer otherwise, simply blow them in the ditch and thank them and the city for the great service they are doing, because hauling this crap is a PITA!

    If per chance there is a fee then you have to decide which is cheaper or easier to do, or both. If your cost to the consumer for hauling them would be more than what the locality can do it for, then you are the wise man who picks the best method that costs the least for your customer. If, on the other hand, you feel you can do it for the same cost then the choice is yours, and if the remote possibility exists that you can do it for less, then why by all means.

    But let's just say I don't haul squat if I don't HAVE to.
    Trust me, the ditch method rules.
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Here's the one-size-fits-all trick to remember:

    Always look out for your customer, even when doing so hurts your immediate finances.

    The long of it:
    It does not mean doing it for free, we have to get paid without argument.
    But we're not in this business just for the money, we're in it because we are experts.
    Because we have the tools and the knowledge to get the job done at the least possible expense, nobody said it was cheap, but it should not cost more than it absolutely has to.

    That is why customers hire us, they don't know enough about the subject so they have realized it would likely cost them as much or more to put themselves through the school of hard knocks as it would to hire one of us in the first place. They don't want to deal with learning all of the ramifications concerning leaves or whatever it is they call us for, since we already know all of this, and thus it is our job to put our knowledge to use for their benefit.

    It is the same in every service business, take auto mechanics for instance.
    Why do you take your car there, because you enjoy paying an arm and a leg?
    No, it is because you know it gets fixed right, the nonsense is over and you are free of this headache and thank YOU for taking care of this. You take it there because the mechanic is an expert who will not fix what does not need fixing, you take it there because he will do it right, and at no cost over and above the absolute essential of what must be done.
    And if your mechanic does anything except that, what happens?
    You take it someplace else, that's what you do.

    So, always look out for your guys.
    Peace out
  6. grassaholic

    grassaholic LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 369

    topsites, I agree and disagree with you on your points. Even though I have a vac truck, I do dump at the curb in areas that have curbside leaf pick-up. I'm no different than anyone else, I don't want to have to haul away any more material than I have to.
    I would have to totally disagree that the vac truck is not a moneymaker. It does cost more money to purchase the extra equipment needed to make my vac truck. I have made the money back with the leaf cleanups that I do in the fall. When other LCO's in my area are just mulching the leaves and talkin about how much they hate leaf cleanups, I'm useing my Walker mowers and vac truck to make my lawns spotless. Doing this has caused neighbors to ask how much I would charge to do their yard. Through this I have picked up many customers. These customers become loyal customers because I do something that not every grasscutter is doing in my area. I know you don't have to do this to be successfull because there are lots of accounts out there that would be stupid to collect grass on. For the high end residential accounts it works great. These people just want their yard to look better than the neighbors yard. For me, the vac truck is a moneymaker. I charge $150 per hr. for a 2 man crew to do a leaf cleanup plus a grass cut. I also raised my mowing prices to offset the dump fees for all the grass during the spring and summer. That didn't make me money, but I didn't lose any either. I have also picked up new business because people like what I'm doing. Without my vac truck, I would be stuck trying to match the prices of all the other LCO's in my area. As a grasscutter once you've double cut a lawn, edged the sidewalks, driveway, and all the beds. You really can't do much to seperate yourself from the competition besides having a competative price. Collecting grass gives me an advantage in the quality of my work. I no longer have to compete with the guy that bought a trailer and a lazer Z to make some extra money. There's plenty of work for everyone in my area. My method just helps me get the customers I'm looking for. Thats the people with money to burn that want their yard to look the best.

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