Salt and other deicing materials were in short supply this winter, presenting many unique challenges to snow fighters. While seasoned veterans have seen this happen in the past, newcomers to the industry might not have been as keen to the realities of a material shortage. One unfortunate reality for some this year was the theft of salt stockpiles.
Salt theft has become a common and serious problem for contractors around the country. This season has rendered a number of news stories about contractors and municipalities having bulk salt stolen from storage bins. Surprisingly, this problem has even trickled down to petty thefts of single bags of salt from residents’ front porches. One national news source reported a group of men in Philadelphia who allegedly committed an armed robbery for a bag of salt that a worker was applying to a sidewalk.
Theft is an unfortunate reality that we face in today’s society - something we must assume will happen rather than wait to see if it does. Not only do we have to build up and protect our supply chain, but we also have to protect the salt we have on hand from theft. Stockpile protection
There are many steps contractors can take to protect their stockpiles. Some solutions are simple and free, while others are more complex and costly. Following are some steps I implemented this winter to protect my supply: Use lockable storage
. When storing salt remotely on a customer’s property and loading with a skid steer, consider using sealed “sea containers” as an alternative to concrete block bins. Not only will this alleviate some environmental storage concerns, but the containers will also keep the salt dry and safe since the containers are lockable. These containers are widely available in 20- and 40-ft. lengths, and 10-ft. containers also are available. Secure your on-site loading equipment
. In most reported thefts, equipment that was stored on-site was used to load the salt during the theft. This is due to many manufacturers’ heavy equipment having the same key. If you’re not able to store the equipment inside a secured garage, consider adding a hidden or lockable battery kill switch that will render the equipment inoperable unless unlocked.
Create a fence for salt bins
. When utilizing large concrete block bins for storage, determine whether fence gates can be attached to the left and right sides of the bin opening. This would allow the front/entrance of the bin to be closed and locked. Add a security camera
. If the storage site has electricity, and better yet Internet access, add a security camera system. There are many systems available that are not only very affordable, but will also send an alert email when the cameras sense motion between a preset range of hours. These systems are almost always viewable from your computer or smart device. It has given us incredible peace of mind when away from the shop, and we’ve used it to identify a suspicious vehicle on more than one occasion.
Security cameras can catch suspects on video. Communicate with local police
. Inform your local police department of your concerns regarding salt theft. We’ve found that not all local police departments are aware of just how high the theft potential actually has been this season. As a result of voicing our concerns, our security cameras show a cruiser checking our salt bins almost every night. Block bins with equipment
. Park trucks in front of salt storage bins or around the sides of open piles. While this is an easy, simple and cheap method of prevention, it’s also somewhat effective. Trucks/vehicles will work better for this than equipment since they are not all keyed alike.
Block storage bins with locked trucks.
Defeat bolt cutters
. Utilize padlocks that are not easily cut or broken with bolt cutters on gates, bins and equipment hoods. An average padlock can be cut off with incredible ease and serves as nothing more than a mild deterrent. There are several options available, including hidden shackle and discus or shrouded-style locks, which make the shackle of the lock completely hidden or less accessible.
Secure equipment with locks that cannot be broken with bolt cutters. Keep accurate records
. Know how much material is coming in, how much is going out, and where it is being spread. This can help aid a system of internal accountability and further prevent losses.
Each contractor will face different challenges when attempting to secure their salt stockpile, and while every situation will be unique, these tips can serve as a basic starting point in protecting your assets. Collin Corso is CEO of Driveway Snow Blowing, Inc.