Road treatment relies on various solutions
Salt and sand are the go-to products when it comes to melting ice and giving traction in the Maritimes, but how and when they’re used depends a lot on the conditions, says one industry expert.
Kevin Mitchell, director of operation services for the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, says when it comes to pre- emptive action, the snow removal crews in Atlantic Canada will often use brine – a salt-water solution – ahead of a storm to keep ice from forming in the first place and even melt some of the snow as it lands. The salt and water are mixed together in machines called brinemakers, which are automated to ensure the right ratio. The mix is sprayed from tanker trucks.
“The water evaporates and leaves salt residue on the road which keeps ice and snow from bonding to the pavement,” Mitchell explained.
The salt brine can also be used afterward to help melt ice, but that is less common.
When wintery precipitation is actively falling, the go- to standard on paved roads is salt for all the Atlantic provinces. Road salt is distributed directly by transportation department trucks.
“They have computer controls to measure out the exact amount of salt as they travel,” Mitchell said.
There comes a point where salt is no longer effective though. While if you use enough some people say it will work until -20C, Mitchell said the standard is to stop using it after temperatures reach -10C.
“At a certain point you can’t apply enough to keep the snow melted,” he said. “At some point all it does is make everything slippery.”
At that point they typically switch over to sand or another type of abrasive material such as crusher dust or chemical mixtures.
Since sand is so readily available in the Maritimes, that is the most common material.
Sand is also used exclusively on dirt roads where salt is largely ineffective.
The sand grains have to be a particular size to work properly and so the sand is screened.
Other options for road treatment in winter are magnesium chloride or calcium chloride, but it is usually cost prohibitive, Mitchell said.
He advises people to use caution this time of year and be particularly careful when temperatures fall.
“Slow down and take your time. Leave lots of gaps between you and the vehicle in front of you.”
Winter Driving Advice The transportations de- partments in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia all offer tips for drivers to stay safe this winter. Some of their recommendations include:
Use winter tires – Install four matching winter tires between the months of November and April. Winter tires provide almost twice the traction of all season tires on snow or ice.
Be sure to look for the peaked mountain and snowflake symbol to ensure you are buying certified winter tires.
Slow down – Speed limits posted on the highways and on municipal roads are for ideal driving conditions, which are considered to be sunny summer days.
Know road conditions – Before you head out on the road, check the weather forecast so you know what you may be able to expect.
Each province has re- sources on their websites to update the highway conditions.
Leave room and look ahead – Slippery roads can inhibit your ability to react and stop. If you leave a greater distance between your car and the one in front of you, then you can adjust more easily should someone suddenly stop or lose control ahead of you.
Allow extra time – It may take you longer to get to your destination, so you should allow extra time to get there on time. That way you will not feel rushed and drive too fast for the conditions of the roads.
Maintain visibility – Clear snow and ice from your windshield, windows and from the head and taillights. You want to be able to see well plus you want others to see you easily. Your wipers should be in good working condition, too, so that they can clear snow from the windshield.
A Department of Transportation salt truck makes the rounds.