campus news

Art of the plow

A snow removal truck clears a path on North Campus.

Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Published November 16, 2022

Tonga Pham.
“When snowstorms hit and most Buffalonians are safe and warm at home, UB’s snowplow drivers are out making campus roadways safe. ”
Tonga Pham, associate vice president
University Facilities

Like it or not, Buffalo is known for snow. Come winter, snowplow drivers become our community heroes, enduring cold, dangerous roads and unpredictable drivers — all to make driving and parking easier on UB’s campuses.

UB starts snowplowing after the area accumulates 2 inches of snow. The university has a fleet of four dedicated snowplows. And before the snow flies, University Facilities also fits 22 of its campus pickup trucks with plows. More than 40 UB grounds employees are trained to plow snow.

And they likely will have to spring into action at the end of the week, as heavy lake effect snow is being forecast for the area.

“When snowstorms hit and most Buffalonians are safe and warm at home, UB’s snowplow drivers are out making campus roadways safe,” says Tonga Pham, associate vice president, University Facilities.

John White.

One of those drivers is John White, who’s been a UB staff member for 14 years. White says the job is more physically taxing than people realize. “We deal with motion sickness, leg cramps, backaches, etc.,” White says. And drivers have to have deep knowledge of their equipment and their surroundings — “down to the smallest edges on manhole covers. We have to know where to pile snow to maintain visibility for drivers, and not block sidewalks, roadway entrances, etc.,” he says.

White says the best part of his job is “creating structure out of chaos,” and “seeing the finished product of a job well-done.”

The biggest challenge? Clearing snow around vehicles that haven’t been properly parked in lots. “A single car left in a parking space overnight can add as much as 30 minutes to the time it takes us to clear a single lot,” he says.

White says he — and likely all the other snowplow drivers at UB — would appreciate receiving “a simple thank you or a wave hello, to know that people appreciate our efforts to keep them safe.”

Plow 1

Plow 2

Plow 3

Plow 4

To recognize its tireless snowplow drivers and their heavy machinery, UB is asking members of the university community to suggest names for the university’s four heavy-duty plows through the Name the UB Snowplow Contest. Four grand prizes of $100 in Campus Cash and 12 second-place prizes of $10 in Campus Cash will be awarded to the UB faculty members, staff members, students or alumni who submit the winning snowplow names.

Names should be submitted by 5 p.m. on Dec. 2. University Facilities’ staff, including plow drivers, will choose the winning names. Winners will be notified via their UB email accounts.

The four snowplows will be “named” with a decal on each plow and unveiled at a Snowplow Driver Appreciation event in early December. The winning names will also be announced on the University Facilities website and in a future UBNow story.