Winter Road Maintenance: Monitoring Salt Use with Telematics

Deploying snow plows as efficiently as possible before and during a storm is a goal of every winter operations fleet manager. Also critical is ensuring that de-icing materials such as road salt are used appropriately. While chloride is effective at melting ice and preventing snow from turning into ice, more is not better given its costs, its potentially damaging effects on wildlife and drinking water and its corrosive effects on vehicles, roads and bridges.

The right fleet management solution can help you improve the performance of your winter road maintenance fleet in more ways than one, including optimizing material usage and staying compliant with state and county salt use policies.

Spreader monitoring as a telematics feature

At the most basic level, a fleet management solution tracks the location of all your vehicles using a GPS sensor in the telematics device. This real-time location data helps you strategize plow deployment and verify route completion. The device tracks the speed of the vehicles as well as their location.

Many solutions also offer input monitoring. The same telematics device can track when the plow blade is down and when the spreader is engaged. This data, viewed in fleet management software, reveals exactly how operators are using plows to clear roads and helps you keep closer tabs on the work of employees and third-party contractors.

Spreader monitoring is an additional function that certain fleet management solutions, including CalAmp iOn™, offer. Thanks to a cable that connects the spreader controller to the telematics device, the device automatically collects and transmits data on the amount of material dispersed and the type of material dispersed so you don’t have to rely solely on operator-recorded data, and you can monitor material usage in the same software platform you use for daily fleet management.

Material usage reports offer operational insights and accountability

In iOn, you can quickly and easily run reports that indicate how much salt, sand, brine or other material operators are spreading and where they’re spreading it. You can also access this information in the field from your smartphone or tablet. The near real-time data allows you to make decisions about additional material applications while operators are still on the road. Spreading too little salt can pose as much danger in the immediate term as spreading too much salt can pose in the longer term. Balancing safety and sustainability is key.

Looking back at a road-clearing operation after a storm, you can see at a glance which roads were treated, how much material was dispersed and how much time the operator spent dispersing it. Post-storm operational critiques shed light on the effectiveness of your material use and help you improve future road-clearing operations.

You can leverage material usage reports to confirm the accuracy of operator usage logs and compare application rates to see which operators may be over-salting roads. Proof of over-salting presents an opportunity for data-based coaching.

Material usage reports can verify compliance with governmental salt use regulations and also help you enforce adherence to any policies that may be in place dictating material use in low-salt or no-salt areas such as areas near lakes, rivers and streams.

Finally, validating the amount of material used during each storm assists with forecasting material and storage capacity needs for the next snow season.

Fleet telematics has become essential to transportation and public works departments. The best fleet management solutions allow managers to do more than track the location and speed of their maintenance vehicles. Data on blade and spreader activation and the volume of material spread helps managers optimize winter road maintenance operations. Reducing salt usage per lane-mile can deliver significant savings in terms of both taxpayer dollars and environmental impact.

Schedule a demo now to see how iOn™ can help you analyze and optimize the efficiency of your snow removal fleet.

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