BEACON FALLS — In the small, unassuming parking lot of Ansonia Steel Fabrication Co. on Pines Bridge Road sits a product that could help keep drivers stay a little safer in the winter.
The product is a patented snow removal system that clears snow off the top of trailers of tractor-trailers. The mechanical unit is the brain child of the company Snow Be Gone. Some parts for the unit are built at Ansonia Steel in Beacon Falls and it’s assembled at the Beacon Falls plant.
The unit, which is attached to the trailer, can clear off accumulated snow in 8 minutes. Under state law, drivers can be ticketed for not clearing snow and ice from their cars. For truck drivers, the fines for creating a “snow hazard” by driving with snow on the trailer can cost up to $1,500.
The idea for the Snow Be Gone came about during a drive on the highway.
“About three years ago one of our directors was driving along the thruway and saw a tractor-trailer go by with sheets of snow coming off and almost causing an accident,” Snow Be Gone President Richard DeCapua said. “That was how the idea of Snow Be Gone was born.”
Ansonia Steel CEO Bart Hogestyn, who sits on Snow Be Gone’s board of directors, said he was skeptical when he was presented with the original drawings of the unit.
“When I looked at it I said, ‘It’s a nice theory, but it’s not going to work.’ So we immediately went into some redesign on it,” Hogestyn said. “The first thing I did was I built a little model to simulate the theory of the drive system. It worked really cute on a scaled-down model.”
That model led to the company’s first prototype, which was tested on a trailer top that had been cut in half and lowered so it was easier to work with.
“We put it under load and beat the snot out of it and it worked really well,” Hogestyn said.
Once the company had a prototype, DeCapua said, work began on perfecting the plow portion of the unit.
“We worked on several prototypes for the blade and we finally came up with this one. That blade now acts as a plow and forces the snow off the sides as it goes through,” DeCapua said.
DeCapua said it was designed after a street snow plow, which casts the snow off the side of the street.
The Snow Be Gone is no longer a prototype, it’s a functioning unit.
“There’s nothing like it in the industry. There are facilities like Fed-Ex and UPS that have a freestanding unit that looks like a goal post. You have to drive your truck under them,” DeCapua said.
DeCapua said Snow Be Gone hopes to enter into a franchising agreement with trucking companies where Snow Be Gone provides the parts for the device and the trucking company will install it. Each unit costs approximately $2,700, he said.
The company has started meeting with trucking companies around New England to demonstrate its product.
“We think we are timely because they are now thinking, ‘What are we going to do next winter?’ I want to be there so they can think about Snow Be Gone as an alternative,” DeCapua said.
DeCapua said Snow Be Gone is in compliance with the height and width regulations for tractor-trailers. He said the unit adds a quarter of an inch to the trailer’s height and about 2.5 inches to either side of the truck, which is below the maximum width for safety features on trailers. The total weight of the system, with the chain, is approximately 240 pounds.
“We’re adding 240 pounds to the trailer. However, it means faster delivery. You’re removing the dead-weight of snow from your unit within 8 minutes. You don’t have to climb up there,” DeCapua said.
DeCapua sees the Snow Be Gone unit as another safety feature that will help everyone on the road.
“Snow Be Gone goes with you, much like your windshield wipers. You don’t use them every day, but when it rains you need them. You got to have them with you,” DeCapua said.