Photo courtesy of Cirus Controls.

Photo courtesy of Cirus Controls.

The Department of Public Works for the City of Lowell, Mass., has decreased its winter road salt use by 30% over the last three fiscal years and saved significantly on its snow and ice budget.

The city attributed the savings to its installation of Cirus Controls’ SpreadSmart Rx spreader control systems on its snowplow trucks. Based on a truck’s speed plus air and road surface temperatures, the electronic spreader control system — rather than snowplow truck operators — regulates the rate of salt or other deicing prescriptions applied to winter road surfaces, according to the company release.

Before installing electronic spreader controls on its snowplow trucks, Public Works was applying tons of salt on city streets for each winter storm. "Our operators would typically set their existing manual spreaders to maximum and go, putting down about 1,000 lbs. of salt per lane mile. As a result, our streets were often covered in salt after a storm,” said Kevin Murphy, Lowell city manager. The leftover salt also raised aesthetic and environmental concerns.

Over the last three fiscal years, Lowell cut road salt use by 30% when measured in tons per inch of snow. The city accomplished this despite tripled snowfall, a drop in average temperature of 9 degrees, and more ice-related events that require salt spreading during this time period.  

Salt Usage

  Tons of Salt Inches of Snow Tons Per Inch
FY-12 6,571.3 23.9 274.9
FY-13 10,713.1 72.1 148.6
FY-14 14,165.1 74.6 189.9
Data courtesy of the City of Lowell, Mass.

Over the last two fiscal years, Lowell saved more than $780,000 on its snow and ice budget. In FY-2013, the city saved $463,556. In FY-2014, the city saved another $322,892. “Over the next few years, more savings are expected as additional trucks are upfitted with Cirus salt spreader controls,” said Ralph Snow, Lowell department of public works commissioner. Lowell has also been saving more money by cleaning up less salt after each winter storm or ice event.

To date, Lowell has installed SpreadSmart Rx spreader controls on 24 new and older snowplow trucks. “The cost for equipping each truck was about $8,300 for a total investment of around $200,000,” Snow said.