Road Salt: Are You Losing More Than You Should?

Author: Stockpile Reports

Drone flying indoors

Every winter, we dump and apply 15 million tons of salt to our streets. It melts the snow and provides better traction for vehicles, preventing accidents, and keeping the traffic flowing as usual. 15 million tons is a staggering amount of salt to move, even spread out across the country. The maneuver requires a large-scale mobilization of the individual Department of Transport (DOT) in each state.

Let’s do a quick exercise to determine potential cost savings by simply improving the way you manage your salt inventory. The range for the cost of a ton of salt ranges from $145 (Alaska) down to $31 (Utah) with an avg of $58/ton. Using Pennsylvania as an example, their cost per ton of salt is $62 and they use about 976k tons of salt per year. If they can achieve a 5% improvement on their inventory management, that equates to 976,000 x .05 x $62 = $3,025,600 in annual savings!

Acquiring, storing, and using road salt is a logistical nightmare for even the most well-prepared, well-funded DOT. It’s hard to move salt before, during, and after a snowstorm or – perish the thought – a blizzard. Then there are other roadblocks to deal with – like delayed orders, leaking stockpiles, and inventory inconsistencies.  It doesn’t help that 2020 is turning out to be an especially turbulent year, adding to the usual chaos. DOTs certainly have their task cut out for them!


Managing your salt doesn’t have to be hard

Fortunately, technology can save the day. SR offers a tracking and logistics solution that allows you to better evaluate and manage your road salt piles. You can implement it quickly and see immediate returns. The Idaho Transportation Department is already using it to good effect (see the end of the post for details).

With SR, you can gain instant clarity on on-the-ground conditions. You don’t need to rely on estimates or glacially-slow inventory counts. Managing your salt piles becomes a more manageable (pardon the pun) task, not to mention prevents massive losses and saves serious taxpayer dollars. The SR solution – implemented with the help of low-cost cameras, drones, and an iPhone app – has 3 hallmarks:

1. It’s Every Pile, Any Time

For decades, DOTs could measure or audit their salt stockpiles only annually. Because there were so many piles involved, spread out across multiple districts, inconsistencies were a given and losses were high. Despite the need, it wasn’t practical or feasible to measure the entirety of the inventory on-demand. Now, however, you can measure any – or all – of your piles lightning-quick thanks to SR. What took a year can now be done in under a week.

2. Everything is digitized

SR allows you to acquire and view data remotely, with a bare minimum of human intervention. Any team member with an iPhone can walk around a salt pile to measure it. Or you can use drones and installed camera systems. You can coordinate the movements of your piles and your department remotely, if necessary. This can come in handy during adverse weather.

3. It’s all almost real-time

You can measure any pile almost instantly. Once you upload a video feed of your file to our servers, we turn it into actionable, reliable data in a handful of minutes. The technology works for both indoor and outdoor stockpiles. We’re currently running a beta program for the instant measurement feature, which we plan to fully roll out in 2021.

DOTs using the SR solution can expect significant benefits:

  1. Improved logistics
  • Detect material leakages before they drain you dry.
  • Digitize your storm inventory sheets and make accounting easier.
  • Optimize your salt application rates, ensuring you only use an appropriate amount.
  • Share your inventory logs with every manager state-wide.
  • Use data to build efficient operating procedures.
  • Use historical data to improve next season.
  1. Replenish easier

Usually, winter maintenance managers rely on estimates for ordering new road salt or determining whether they have enough already. And, occasionally, these estimates are off the mark, leading to delays and losses. If you order too much, you pay for storage and other expenses. If you order too little, you can’t do the application properly. Using SR’s system, you can determine exactly when you have enough and come up with the right reorder point. Further, with Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), you can rope in your vendor to help you manage the reordering.

  1. Verify

Verification is important. Did you receive the exact amount you ordered from your supplier? Are you losing material due to leakages? Do you have enough road salt at point A to move to point B? What’s on record doesn’t always match what’s truly there, which leads to mix-ups and inefficiencies. SR’s measurement solution allows you to verify quickly.

  1. Reduce write-offs 

Finally, how much road salt do you lose each year? Inventory loss (or shrinkage or write-off) is a problem plaguing all industries under the sun. Large organizations lose millions of dollars each year to write-offs. A write-off is more than a financial loss – it can cause inefficiencies in the supply chain that hurts every part of the business process. SR’s solution allows you to identify and minimize avoidable types of write-offs.

The Idaho Department of Transport is reaping the rewards

Working with SR, the Idaho Department of Transport transformed their processes and made significant gains:

  • No additional equipment investment necessary
  • Halves the personnel required per stockpile measurement
  • Saves $2.1M per year in measurement costs
  • Saves 20 FTEs per year in measurement time
  • 27% improved employee cubic yard estimates
  • Adjusts down 40% existing cubic yard inventory quantity


With SR, you receive the data you need to make better decisions on-the-fly. We can replicate the success the Idaho Department of Transport has had with yours. Our team will work closely with you to understand your unique challenges – road salt and non-road-salt related – and design and deliver the appropriate solution. Get in touch with us for a demonstration on how we can help you move road salt this year!

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