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The Trend Towards Liquids

By Pam Buckley, Sustainability Manager, Douglas Dynamics

Liquids Proven for Decades

The many benefits of liquid strategies for snow and ice control have been well documented in numerous, wide-ranging field studies spanning two decades. Expanded use of liquid strategies by DOTs across the U.S. Snowbelt has resulted in a significant decrease in accidents and operational costs, with improvement in a variety of performance indicators. During a 12-year study, the interstate system in the Denver metro area saw a 14 percent decrease in snow and ice related accidents attributed to the use of anti-icing strategies.

If years of validation in the public sector haven’t been enough to persuade commercial service providers to consider adding liquids to their toolbox, increasingly extreme weather events coupled with shortages in salt supply and skyrocketing prices surely have.

In early 2014, private service providers suffered as scarce salt supplies were earmarked for higher priority municipal targets. Compelled to purchase costly alternatives to salt or compromise on service goals, many who earlier in the season were anticipating a windfall, by February were barely breaking even. In February 2014, Frank Morris of NPR’s KCUR-FM in Kansas City, MO reported, “The price of salt delivered to Chicago, for example, has jumped as much as fivefold. Earlier in the year, a ton of rock salt would cost $50. Now, it can cost $250 or more.”

Innovative Service Providers Are Ready to Take the Plunge

In September 2013, SnowEx® surveyed its end users to gauge their attitudes on the question of liquid technologies. Their responses confirmed that the private sector was primed to move in the direction of liquids, even before the winter of 2013-14 gave it a shove.

When asked to check all potential benefits they perceived from the use of liquid technologies…

  • 59% indicated “Increased Efficiency in Handling Diverse Snow and Ice Conditions.”
  • 54% pointed to “Environmental Benefits.”
  • 54% believed them to be “More Profitable.”
  • 52% perceived “Benefits for Increased Business Opportunities.”
  • 45% saw “Advantages for Property Owners.”
  • 38% thought them to be “More Cost Effective.”
  • 12% perceived “No Benefits in the Use of Liquids.”

When asked if and what liquid application equipment or services they planned on expanding, respondents said:

  • 65% Anti-icing
  • 51% Deicing/Pre-wetting
  • 30% Pretreating Stockpiles
  • 46% Want to make brine but only 18% do

Equipment purchase priorities in the next two seasons included:

  • 48% Truck-mounted Spray Systems
  • 46% Pre-wet Systems
  • 52% Sidewalk Sprayers

End Users voiced their greatest challenges as:

  1. Obtaining reliable information and training on how to utilize liquid strategies effectively and efficiently.
  2. Learning how to save on costs and increase their bottom line.
  3. Learning how to communicate with property owners about liquids and integrate their usage into client contracts.

One survey respondent noted, “Liquids are the future of our industry. They will never replace granular products, but should be an important tool in the tool belt of any serious snow and ice contractor.”

SnowEx® Responds

Concerns for the supply and cost of salt, fueled by growing awareness of the benefits of liquids and increasing demand for more sustainable practices, are driving interest in LEAN salt technology throughout the industry. The level of engagement is escalating nationwide. The 2014 SIMA Salt Summit, sponsored by SnowEx, sold out in one week, and a second event was similarly attended. In 2015, the Save Lake George Salt Summit in New York and the 2nd Annual Salt Symposium in New Hampshire drew widespread response fom both the private and public sectors in those states.

Responding to customer demand for reliable, cost-effective, purpose-built liquid application and material production equipment, SnowEx released the Liqui Maxx™ modular sprayers and Brine Pro™ 2000 brine maker, which was selected for Landscape and Irrigation magazine’s Twenty for 2015 New Product Award, based on its innovation, marketability and application. Going one step further, SnowEx supports its liquid line by offering the type of value-added training customers are requesting.

The message is clear: snowfighters are ready to take the plunge into liquids and this is a significant opportunity for innovative dealers and commercial service providers to position themselves on the leading edge of this trend.

Download a PDF version of the article here.