A resource for winter maintenance decision makers
With smart salt spreading technology, only 65% of the current amount would be needed to keep our roads safe. That's 7.7 million fewer tons of salt every year. And with the most serious salt shortages in recent history pushing salt prices as high as $110 per ton, that's an annual savings of $847 million! (Similar math can be done to compute projected savings for individual municipal fleets and then multiplied 10-15 times to reflect the average life span of a municipal salt spreader).
According to the Federal Highway Administration, winter road maintenance swallows 20% of state department of transportation maintenance budgets annually, amounting to total costs of more than $2.3 billion in 2015.
Already an industry standard in many European countries with significant snowfall, smart salt spreading is the optimization of salt usage and placement which results in faster ice melting, safer roads, lower costs and less environment impact. It is made possible through a number of technological advancements, including:
Municipalities using smart salt spreading technologies have reduced their salt consumption as much as 35% and report a 33-50% reduction in labor time.
A study from Washington State University conducted in 2015 estimated that not only does the US spend $2.3 billion each year in the US to remove snow and ice from highways (not including the cost of salting city and rural roads), but it spends another $5 billion annually to pay for the resulting damage caused by salt.
So less salt means lower material costs. Plus, the more efficient spreading of salt means having to pay fewer drivers for fewer hours, including less overtime (not to mention lower fuel costs). Some smart spreaders have the capability to provide up to three lanes of coverage at one time to minimize the number of passes required and significantly shorten the time it takes to create safer roadways.
At a time when both salt and driver supplies are tighter than ever, such efficiency translates into significant savings for budget-strapped government transportation departments.
Less salt also means less harm to the environment and less need to pay to replant grass and plant life that has been killed by excessive salt bouncing or blown off to the sides of roads. (According to the Michigan Department of Transportation’s 2012 Bounce and Scatter Study, pre-wetting keeps 30% more salt on the intended surface.) Less salt also translates into fewer road and bridge repairs necessitated by the corrosive effects of salt.