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.

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