Since the 1940s, U.S. road maintenance departments have been spreading salt on streets and highways to melt snow and ice. It’s not a new phenomenon, but the rate of use has gone up astronomically from about 0.15 metric tons (0.16 tons) per year during the 1940s to about 18 million metric tons (19.8 million tons) per year today. Not to mention, the biggest budget these departments have is for salt and chemical treatments for the roads.
Why Decrease Your Salt Usage
Salt is not eco-friendly or good for the environment as it can endanger or kill wildlife, damage properties and increase soil erosion. While some are using more green alternatives like sand to help increase traction, it will lead to additional hours of work and money to maintain the roads.
There are some “additives” on the market that can be used in conjunction with salt to increase its performance and to help reduce the overall amount of salt that would otherwise be needed but these still are not alternatives to plentiful, low-cost chlorides. The best options are good decisions that make sense both in the short and long-term.
In the short-term, use the right amount of chemical based on surface temperatures and precipitation type. Additionally, it is important to accurately measure the amount of chemical being applied so as to avoid over application, which is a common problem in the industry.
Why Use Plow Blades
You might not know this, but there is a way to reduce the amount of salt you need this winter. And it’s easy – just invest in and use better, high-quality blades. If you can get more snow and ice off the roads in the first place, you’re able to use fewer chemicals to prevent bonded ice or snow.
Better plow blades keep roads in better shape longer. By selecting a blade company that is a partner versus just a vendor, you gain access to people who can help you select the best blades for the job to ensure less damage to road surfaces. An incorrect blade can result in poor snow and ice removal and force you to lean heavily on your chemical strategy. Using the right blade can create the appropriate surface for the salt and chemicals to react, giving you better results with less solution.
Despite the damage salt causes to roadways, concrete, waterways, and sidewalks, we continue to count on it each winter. Though salt is necessary for public health, often credited with lowering crash and accident injuries during icy winter months, it also heavily contributes to the need for road maintenance come spring and summer.
When salt is used on roads, it lowers the temperature that water will freeze (from 32 degrees to 15 degrees Fahrenheit). This creates an artificial freeze-thaw cycle encouraging more damage to occur faster. Sodium chloride (NaCl) and other deicing mechanisms like calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium acetate and calcium magnesium acetate all contribute to the erosion of our roadways.
Getting as much moisture off the roads as possible is paramount to maintaining your roads. The more precipitation you can remove, the better shape your roads will be in come spring. Additionally, removing more precipitation the first time around will lead to fewer salt and chemical treatments on pavement, and thus, minimizing damage to your roads.
Chemical Treatment vs. Mechanical Removal
Mechanical removal is the process of removing snow with a plow while chemical treatment is the process of using salt, brines and beet juices to clear the roads. Maximizing your mechanical removal and choosing the right edge for the job allows you to not rely on chemical treatment as much.
Steel blades are hard and conform to the contours of the road while they self-sharpen. They’re able to take up more materials, which could lead to road damage. On the other hand, rubber blades won’t damage the roads, but leaves materials behind which could form black ice on the roads and sidewalks.
Understanding the right blade for your goals will help you to reduce the need for chemical usage, because you are more efficiently removing materials.
While you’re not likely able to get rid of salt use all together, better plow blades can help lower salt consumption and keep roads in better shape longer. When you are running the correct snowplow blade for your application, you’re achieving maximum performance. An incorrect blade can result in poor snow and ice removal and make you lean heavily on your chemical strategy.
Makes sense, right? Taking more snow and ice off the road the first time with a better blade ensures you don’t have to go back through the streets and dump metric tons of chemicals on the road.
The right blade can also create the appropriate surface for the salt and chemicals to react. This makes your chemical strategy twice as efficient, using fewer chemicals and making sure the ones you do use work well.
Nate Kallay is Director of Sales and Marketing for Winter Equipment.