Applications and Innovations
However, in a city environment where speeds are lower, the application approach must be altered. “The real key here is driver speed,” Scharffbillig says. “You want to go slower, and the patterns are a little wider at intersections. Even if you are pre-wetting the salt, it still bounces off and goes down the side of the road, so operators need to slow down their speeds. The optimum speed is between 15 to 25 miles per hour.”
GPS or smart controller units that collect speed and application rates are often used now to help operators adhere to these sensible salting guidelines.
“These aren’t your grandpa’s snowplows,” Scharffbillig says. “You can’t go by the thinking that, ‘If a little [salt or chemical] is good, a lot is better,’” Scharffbillig says. “More is not necessarily better. If you apply too many chemicals, it can actually cause more problems. You are only as good as the person behind the wheel. If the people actually operating the trucks know what the end goal is, they are very willing to produce this. They just want to do the best job out there and get their families home safe. They want to get home just like everyone else. The real key is with the person removing the snow. They need to know what the ultimate goal is.”
The issue is that the chemicals have a very particular purpose to either prevent or break the bond between the snow and ice and the road surface, explains Wilf Nixon, P.E., Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa.
“There is the misconception that the chemical is there to burn off the snow,” Nixon notes. “If you are trying to burn off the snow, you’d need a whole lot more chemical and it’s not the right way of getting the job done. The snowplow operator is usually very concerned about making sure the roads they are responsible for are in the best possible shape.”
The motivation for this could be several things – the safety of their own family members or just pride in their work.
“But the primary driving factors why they are doing their work can sometimes lead them to be overenthusiastic,” Nixon points out. “When they use chemicals, they may think that if some is good a whole lot more might be better.”
This is of course, just not so.v
Next month: Sensible Salting and the Latest Winter Technologies
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