BPT -- If you live in America's snowbelt, you know how back-breaking clearing all that white stuff can be. Using a shovel or snow blower can be time-consuming and strenuous, prompting many people to acquire a snowplow to keep driveways and other areas safe.

If you're a newbie to plowing, the experts at Agri-Cover urge you to keep a few tips in mind:

Assess the area before you start plowing

Effective plowing means knowing where potential hazards are. Keep in mind locations of mailboxes, utilities, manholes, storm sewers, fire hydrants, gas meters, etc. Mark areas if necessary to help you avoid damage to them as well as to your truck. Also, note the type of ground surface you'll be clearing and use a plow created for it. For example, the SnowSport HD Utility Plow has a rubber cutting edge so you can plow on concrete, brick, blacktop, gravel and grass surfaces without causing damage.

Make safety a priority

Visibility may be low when plowing, so it's critical to keep safety top of mind for yourself and others. Always wear your seatbelt and be aware of your surroundings - falling snow and high mounds make animals, hazards and people difficult to see. When backing up, don't rely on rear view mirrors - instead turn around and look where you are going for better visibility. Finally, take it slow - do not exceed 10 mph when plowing.

Plow with the snowstorm

Start plowing when snow is four or fewer inches deep, especially when it is heavy and wet. Keep in mind that wet snow weighs approximately 12 pounds per cubic foot which can quickly equate to multiple tons that need to be moved. If you are plowing wet or very deep snow, you may have to take several runs at it, or plow in narrower strips to avoid overloading your equipment.

Smart plowing techniques

For driveways, streets and walkways, drive straight and stack snow in piles with the blade set straight. When the space is wider than the plow's blade, do one swipe down the middle and then do follow-up passes on each side. For parking lots and wider spaces, plow the areas in front of buildings first. Make a center pass and then work your way outward, strategically stacking snow where appropriate. Visit www.buysnowsportplows.com for more smart snowplowing tips.

Follow up

After the snow is plowed, you can sit back and enjoy winter's beauty, right? Snowplowing best practices include doing a post-plow inspection to the plowed areas and the equipment. Be sure to check your blade for damage and look for loose bolts or cracked welding. Give the plowed space a once-over to ensure it's clear and all critical spaces - such as hydrants, electrical boxes, septic vent pipes and ground drains - are open and accessible. Make corrections as necessary, and then relax until the next snow storm arrives.