Understanding the Reason: Why Snow Plow Crews Block Driveways

Winter weather can be challenging, especially when you’re faced with a driveway blocked by a wall of snow after the plow crews have passed. You might wonder why your personal access seems to be an afterthought. It’s not that plow operators are out to make your day harder; they’re following a protocol that doesn’t always align with individual convenience.

The truth is, plow crews have a tough job clearing miles of road under pressure to ensure overall city mobility. They must maintain a certain speed to effectively push snow aside, which unfortunately can lead to snow windrows across driveways. Understanding the mechanics behind this can ease your frustration and help you better prepare for these snowy inconveniences.

Why Do Snow Plow Crews Block Driveways

When you’re dealing with the aftermath of a heavy snowfall, you might notice a frustrating obstacle at the end of your driveway: a windrow of snow left by passing plow crews. It’s not a mistake, nor is it done with the intent to cause you hassle. Plow crews face the challenge of clearing snow quickly to ensure roads are navigable for everyone.

Protocols dictate that plows maintain a minimum speed that’s necessary for moving snow effectively off to the side. The reality is that plow operators have limited control over the snow’s direction once it leaves the plow. This is why you sometimes find your driveway blocked by a mound of snow—the unavoidable side-effect of efficient snow removal from roads.

In residential areas with numerous driveways, it’s impractical for operators to lift their plow blades at each driveway. The focus is on the broader picture: keeping the city’s mobility in check. It’s important to remember, clearing roads takes precedence to ensure emergency vehicles and regular traffic can move without issues.

About sidewalks near the curb, it’s common for snow to get deposited onto them even though operators’ best efforts to avoid it. Sidewalk snow clearing equipment will usually follow to clean these areas, but this occurs once roads are sufficiently cleared. For the most effective snow management on your part, it’s recommended to wait until the plow crews have done their job in your area before you start shovelling.

In extreme cases, such as the Barger family from Indianapolis, snow windrows can become a significant concern. Their driveway was blocked by snow from State Road 67, causing worry about accessing emergency services. While this highlights the challenges faced by residents, it also underscores the need for plans and preparation during heavy snowfalls, including considering hiring private snow removal if personal health is at risk and one can’t manage snow clearing activities on their own.

Understanding the Process

snow plow clearing mountain road winter scene

How Snow Plow Crews Work

When a snowstorm blankets your city, snow plow crews hit the roads with a clear plan. Deployment is the first step; trucks venture out, each to an assigned route, ensuring comprehensive coverage. These routes are predetermined to avoid overlap and to maximize the number of roads cleared in the shortest time possible. The trucks are equipped with plows that push snow from the road’s center to the right side – a simple yet effective tactic guided by the laws of physics and practicality.

At the heart of operations is the physics of snow removal. To effectively cast snow aside, plows must maintain a certain momentum. This is non-negotiable; too slow, and the snow merely accumulates in front of the plow, too fast, and the control is compromised. Balance is key, and the chosen speed is what causes the inevitable snow piles at the end of your driveway.

When conditions worsen, crews adapt their strategies. For heavier accumulations, front-end loaders replace regular plows in courts and cul-de-sacs. Unlike regular plows, loaders can maneuver large volumes of snow, but their deployment is reserved for post-storm clearance after main roads have been cleared.

The Goal of Snow Plow Crews

The over-arching aim for snow plow crews is maintaining safe and efficient travel. Every step from equipment maintenance to the optimization of routes is designed to this end. At the onset of a snow event, teams have a sharp deadline; Provincial guidelines dictate that all streets must be cleared within 24 hours, with priority routes attended to within a 12-hour window, irrespective of storm intensity.

Prioritization of RoutesDeadline
Main arteries12 hours post-storm
Residential streets24 hours post-storm

Clearing efforts extend to public spaces as well, with Town Building Maintenance and Parks personnel working tirelessly to ensure accessibility. Public safety is paramount, with crews ensuring that emergency vehicles can navigate the streets without hindrance. It’s not just about the quick removal of snow; it’s also about keeping those vital paths clear for ambulances and police cars.

In understanding these objectives, it becomes clear that snow piles by driveways are not a sign of oversight but the by-product of a system designed for the greater good. With real-time adjustments based on current weather conditions and equipment availability, these teams are the unsung heroes who brave the cold so that life can go on as normally as possible under layers of snow.

Factors That Lead to Blocked Driveways

Limited Space for Snow Disposal

When snow plow crews set out to clear the streets, they’re faced with the challenge of limited space in urban environments. There’s a finite area to deposit snow, leading to unavoidable blockades at the end of driveways. Here’s why:

  • Storage: During heavy snowfalls, the banks along the road become saturated. The snow must go somewhere, and unfortunately, that often ends up being across driveways.
  • Centrality: Snow is sometimes plowed towards the middle of courts or junctions for temporary storage. Once these central areas reach capacity, driveways may become recipient zones for excess snow.

Safety Considerations

Safety considerations are critical for the snow plowing process:

  • Clear Pathways: Emergency vehicles require wide, clear paths to navigate. Piles of snow must be distributed to accommodate their needs, which can mean more snow near driveways.
  • Avoiding Roadways: Depositing snow onto roadways or sidewalks is against by-laws; this ensures roads and walkways are safe for vehicles and pedestrians but can contribute to snow being piled at driveway entrances.
  • Prioritization: Main arteries are the first to be cleared, with residential areas following. This can result in limited time to manage snow deposition meticulously.
  • Round-the-Clock Operations: Crews often work around the clock during a snowstorm. Even though their efforts, the sheer volume of snow can lead to rapid accumulation in unwanted areas, such as across driveways, as plows pass by repeatedly to keep roads clear.

Impact on Homeowners

Difficulty in Exiting Driveways

You’re ready to leave the house only to find your driveway exit barricaded by a large windrow, an all-too-common scenario during the winter months. Windrows, the piles of snow left at the end of driveways after plows clear the streets, can create significant obstacles. They occur because plows have limited control over the snow’s direction after it leaves the plow. “Corner properties” or driveways near turns are especially prone to larger windrows due to the plows’ maneuvering.

When the windrow is high, you may find it nearly impossible to drive over it without risking damage to your vehicle, leaving you essentially trapped. Shovelling away these snowbanks becomes a necessary but exhausting task, particularly for those with physical limitations or health concerns.

Potential Damage to Vehicles

Venturing across a windrow isn’t just a challenge; it can be perilous for your vehicle. The compacted snow and ice have the potential to cause damage to the car’s undercarriage or, in extreme cases, may even lead to getting your car stuck. Such scenarios lead to further difficulties, potentially requiring a tow truck service, which adds to your expenses.

Plow trucks may, accidentally, push dense, heavy snow onto driveways, causing visible damage. Impacts could range from superficial bodywork dents to significant mechanical issues if snow is forced into the engine bay or exhaust outlets. These problems exacerbate the need for homeowners to be vigilant post-snowstorm and before attempting to drive over or through these windrows.

Inconvenience and Frustration

The efforts of plow crews, while focused on maintaining clear and safe roadways, inadvertently result in additional workload on homeowners. After having shovelled your driveway, discovering it re-covered by a plow can be highly discouraging. It’s not just physically demanding work; the repetitive cycle can also affect your morale.

Also, when driveways are blocked, essential activities like grocery shopping or attending important appointments become difficult or delayed. This disruption to daily routines often leads to increased stress levels and dissatisfaction, particularly when faced with the possibility of missed events or compromised emergency services access.

For individuals with mobility concerns or pre-existing health conditions, the prospect of having to clear heavy snowfall to ensure accessibility can be a challenging job, sometimes translating into reliance on external help or services.

Tips for Dealing with Blocked Driveways

man shoveling snow in winter

Clearing Snow After Plowing

When a snow plow clears your street, it can leave a windrow—a troublesome pile of snow blocking your driveway. Although it can be frustrating, proactive measures can minimize the hassle. First, when clearing snow from your driveway, pile the snow to the right as you face the road. This strategy can significantly reduce the amount of snow pushed back into your driveway by a subsequent plowing.

Also, you should clear an area to the left of your driveway (as you face it). This way, when plows come through, they have space to offload snow before reaching your driveway. Always clear snow promptly after a plow passes—compacted snow is harder to remove and can freeze, becoming a safety hazard.

Remember, the timing of snow removal is vital. Check your local plow schedules and try to shovel after the crews have completed their rounds in your area. It reduces the chances that you’ll need to do it more than once.

Communicating with Local Authorities

Staying informed and in communication with local authorities might offer some respite from the regular plight of blocked driveways. Most municipalities have a contact number or a service website where you can report issues and find updates on plow schedules. When communicating with these authorities, be specific about your concerns. Provide precise details about your location, the frequency and extent of the blockage, and how it’s impacting your daily life. Documentation can also help – consider taking photos of the blocked driveway to highlight the issue’s severity.

Be aware that during heavy snowfall, plow crews prioritize routes based on traffic volume and importance for public safety. This order is generally as follows:

  1. Major arterial roads and bus routes
  2. Major collector roads and industrial areas
  3. Local residential streets
  4. Cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets

In severe weather events, patience is essential as resources can be overstretched. In the case of a Significant Weather Event being declared, maintenance timeframes can be extended. During these periods, roads are considered under repair until the weather event is deemed over by the municipality.

By staying informed about your local snow removal policies and keeping an open line of communication with municipal services, you can better manage the inconvenience of driveway blockages. Also, engaging with your community can help advocate for better snow removal practices that consider the needs of all residents.


You’ve now got the know-how to tackle the pesky problem of snow plows blocking your driveway. Remember, strategic shovelling and prompt action are key to keeping your driveway clear. Don’t forget to reach out to your local authorities when necessary and keep yourself updated on plow schedules. Your proactive approach not only ensures your driveway stays accessible but also contributes to a smoother snow removal process for everyone. Stay patient and prepared, and you’ll navigate the winter season with ease.


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