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Salt sense: less is more

  • SIMA
- Posted: October 29, 2018
By Chris Marino, ASM

This year’s State of the Industry survey results regarding salting practices aren’t all that surprising - contracted level of service and concern for slip and fall liability account for more than 60% of the primary drivers of salt use. But those two factors often result in decision-making power being taken from those who should know best - the snow and ice management professional.

Of course, contractors and clients fear a slip and fall liability. An uneducated client (or even worse an uneducated snow contractor) may think more is better; however, the truth is you are actually creating different problems by overapplying - and you’re wasting money and product. 

A client once told us that he wanted his lot to resemble a beach with as much salt applied as possible. We had to educate him on all the likely problems this would create. When you overapply salt, you actually reduce its effect and create an environment where someone can easily slide, creating a slip and fall opportunity - the very scenario you’re trying to avoid. 

Through proper education and implementing best practices, we are able to provide the best solution without wasting product and damaging his facility through salt overuse. 
Continuing to sign contracts that dictate how much and when salt must be applied because of liability concerns or a client’s “more is better” level of service requirement, wastes time and money. Contractors who do are not working in the best interest of their clients, their companies or the environment. 

Education is key
It is possible to use less salt and achieve optimal results to allow your company to stand above the competition. But it takes time (and money) to educate yourself, your team and your clients. 

As the owner of your business it’s important to be fully educated on the current methods available for ice control, proper use of salt and how to calculate application rates. 

Our goal is to reduce salt use by half. We implemented a liquids program in which we pretreat all properties with brine or a hot mixture days in advance of a storm. We then chose pushers built to scrape down to pavement. That 1-2 punch allows us to greatly reduce use of granular material. We implemented software that tracks what is being applied, reports back into a program through GPS and trains our team on how much material is to be used per client, per application. The more we can benchmark our operations, the better we can refine initiatives to make a difference.

By implementing these programs it allows you to truly understand real time usage and instill best practices in your team. In return, this will greatly reduce waste - essential should salt supply become an issue. You will be able to maintain more control and be able to make the most use of your product. 

You must also educate your clients on why you are trying to do more with less salt. Your clients should care that you are doing your part to reduce the amount of salt going into the environment. If not, talk money - your proper use of liquids and new plow technologies can save them money. 

Incentivizing over salting
Contract terms and fear of liability are only two factors that drive over-application of salt. Industry practices on how companies are pricing salting services also play a key role -and it’s 100% on contractors to know better.

Pricing that incentivizes the over-application of salt is counterproductive if you want to embrace best practices and be more environmentally friendly. These pricing models reduce the incentive of being resourceful with products since the more you apply the more you make. 

By putting this style of billing into the hands of a contractor focused on driving profit through salt sales, the client loses and the environment is the biggest loser. Billing per application allows you to control your product use by providing your client the best solution during that event. In addition, being able to bill per application gives the client a fixed basis of what they are spending and allows the contractor to maximize profits by deploying the most efficient tools available. 

Throwing more salt does not mean you’re doing a better job. Salt will always play a role in ice management but embracing a range of tools that help create the safest environment with the least salt possible should always be the goal. 
2018 State of the Industry survey results
  • 56% = Respondents who stated they charge clients per application for salt. Otherwise, the most prominent charge was all inclusive (21%), per ton (10%), per pound (5%) and per bag (4%).
Salt Driver graphic

Chris Marino, ASM, is chief visionary for Xtreme Snow Pros in Mahwah, New Jersey. Comments are welcome at 
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