Why Continue to Use Rock Salt With So Many Options Now Available

de-icing rock salt

Old man winter is back and the forecast is already calling for a very snowy season.  Today’s culture is much more accommodating of employees working from home with remote access to their company’s computer network.  But even in this WIFI- friendly era, most of us still need to dig our car out from last night’s snowfall and brave the perilous roads to get to work on time.  Public officials, engineers and the DOT spend precious time preparing for the yearly snowfall and anticipate road maintenance long before the first flake hits the ground. With alternative anti-icing and de-icing agents on the market, this poses the question of what product or combination of products to use for the most efficient snow and ice removal.

Many municipalities prefer to use rock salt to melt the wintery mess as opposed to using liquid de-icers.  Since all snow events are not the same, maintaining the roads during any given event may require a combination of products used.  Decisions on how much and how often to apply materials are best left to those who have the ability to assess conditions and adjust the method used to the conditions at hand. During the day, when the sun warms the pavement, the additional heat speeds up melting. The radiant heat may increase pavement temperature by 10°F or more above the temperature of the air. But on clear cold nights, pavements may again drop below the air’s temperature.

Salt is the most efficient de-icing chemical if road temperatures remain above 15°F. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are common options for use in colder temperatures. These two alternative chemicals are effective for road temperatures below 0°F. Since these chemicals cost up to 10 times more than rock salt, combining some dry calcium chloride or magnesium chloride with salt can be a good approach in severe conditions.  Keep in mind that dry calcium chloride and magnesium chloride demand specific handling.  Unless the product is stored in moisture-proof containers, it has the capability to draw in moisture, causing the material to cake.

Many maintenance crews have been testing the benefits and effects of liquid anti-icers and as opposed to relying on rock salt alone for keeping the roads clear. Liquid anti-icers are chemicals that are sprayed onto roadways and parking lots before the snow or ice hits the ground surface.  The strategy is to try to keep the bond between ice and the pavement surface from forming from the start.  The method has been successful in storm events with little and/or low-moisture snow. Some companies claim that their product will melt the first few inches of snow, but that is not usually the case for snow events typical to the Northeast.  The common result from these pre-sprayed applications is about one centimeter of melt (less than half an inch).  Another drawback to pre-sprayed applications is that it can very well wear away from high traffic flow and tire transfer, and become less efficient if applied too long before the bad weather arrives.

For those who are looking for a definitive answer on which product is the best to use for proper road maintenance, the answer just isn’t clear-cut. The use of liquids is just another added tool in fighting the wintery mess that Mother Nature descends upon us.  Rock salt may seem old fashioned but its properties have been tested to be reliable, efficient and cost effective.  In the effort to keep our roadways safe, it seems that the best strategy is to be flexible and have a combination of options available.

For more information about bulk delivery of rock salt in NJ or Staten Island, call ATAK Trucking at 917-912-2900.

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