How rock salt is used to clear our roads
Rock salt is used as a de-icer to remove winter effects such as snow and ice from most of our roads. Of course, rock salt is also used on other surfaces such as to clear car parks and walkways into shops and shopping malls of snow and ice, or to make paths to our homes clear and safer to walk on and it is even used on airport runways for the safety of planes landing and taking off.
Rock salt is usually applied to the surface in question in anticipation of a snow or icy conditions. It can prevent or delay ice forming or sticking to a road surface. The rationale behind using it in this way is not for it to melt the snow or ice but it lowers the temperature at which water freezes thus making it more difficult for the ice to form in the first place. It also prevents bonding to the pavement by the ice and snow. This makes it much easier when there is a heavy fall of snow for the snow ploughs to clear the snow from the roads.
Another good reason that rock salt is used to clear roads is to improve traction for road vehicles. Rock salt is grainy and therefore allows the tyre tread of vehicles to get a better grip on the road surface. This is an important part in making the roads safe to use during the winter months.
Methods of use
The common method of de-icing roadways, which has been used for many years now, is by spreader trucks that carry tonnes of rock salt which is fed through a simple circulating spreader that throws the rock salt onto the road as the vehicle travels.
Rock salt is a naturally occurring material that is mined in huge quantities and is relatively inexpensive. This is the main reason why it is the preferred choice by many local authorities as the main element of their winter road clearing methods.
Many local authorities whose towns and cities get a regular amount of snowfall have to clear their roads on a large scale. This requires them to operate and maintain large fleets of trucks and equipment in order to ensure they can keep the roads clear and therefore keep the traffic moving in safe conditions.
This also includes a trained workforce who have the ability and experience to work in what can often be challenging conditions. Their duties will include the mass spreading of rock salt from the spreader trucks and also, for example, the filling of grit bins made available to the general public for local roads and pathways. These tasks will have to be undertaken multiple times throughout the winter.
In addition to this they also have to clear areas like city centre high streets and shopping areas so that pedestrians don’t have to walk on snow covered or icy streets. Public car parks and entrances to public buildings are some of the other areas that will be cleared on a regular basis.
It is an ongoing battle against the winter conditions which is very much helped by the use of rock salt.
Rock salt alternatives
There is however growing concern over the downsides of rock salt and in particular it’s corrosive and toxic properties and its harmful effects on the environment. There is much debate about the subject causing many users, including local authorities to consider alternatives to rock salt.