Treated salt helps town lower labor, equipment expenses
When Jim Ferguson, town supervisor for Greenville, N.Y, was looking for an alternative to straight rock salt, he noticed a common thread: Many products were not delivered ready for application, and only a few were delivered pre-mixed with salt. “We wanted to try a treated salt, but we didn’t have the budget to purchase the additional equipment that was necessary to apply the treatment to our existing salt,” he says. “We wanted the benefits of a treated salt without the hassle.”
As Ferguson discovered, finding the right deicing product is not easy: There are different products, different application methods and different needs. Several treated salts are available, many of which offer performance, as well as residual benefits. For example, treated salt typically costs more than untreated salt, but many transportation departments have concluded that, because of enhanced performance, pre-treated salt can save them 20 percent to 40 percent over the course of a winter.
According to snow removal industry experts, a number of factors — cost, performance, on-time delivery, customer service and convenience — should be considered when choosing treated deicing salts. While all factors are important, the convenience of any treatment affects overall cost and performance, as well as the intangible “hassle” factor. A pre-mixed treated salt eliminates the trouble of spraying the treatment on the salt before it can be used on the road. However, additional savings come from not having to buy additional equipment with which to apply the treatment and not having to pay employees to apply it. Pre-mixed treated salt also is ready whenever it is needed.
Ferguson decided to try ClearLane, a blend of magnesium chloride and cane molasses introduced by Minneapolis-based Cargill Salt in October 2000. (The cane molasses helps the product stick to the roadways better than straight rock salt, which means less “scatter” and less wasted salt.) Greenville used about 900 tons of the product last winter.
As Ferguson had hoped, Greenville realized lower labor costs and equipment expenses, and the town used less deicer than it would have had it used untreated salt. “We used less product — in fact we used between one-third and one-half less product compared to the sand/salt mixture we normally use,” Ferguson says. “More product stays on the road, and, as a result, we’ve seen cost savings, including reduced driver labor and fuel expenses. We even shortened our route times by approximately 30 minutes.”