Expect a road salt shortage this winter

Landscape contractors may have to find alternatives to keep surfaces safe.
Turf and Rec Staff
October 10, 2018
By Turf and Rec Staff
Supplies of road salt will be low in Ontario this winter, due to a prolonged strike among salt miners.
Supplies of road salt will be low in Ontario this winter, due to a prolonged strike among salt miners.
Landscape contractors who offer ice and snow removal services for their customers each winter in Ontario may feel the pinch in costlier salt supplies as a result of a summer labour dispute at the world’s largest salt mine in Goderich, Ont.

Due to a since resolved strike among workers at the Goderich Sifto mine, salt supplies are low. Complicating matters are a reduced capacity at another large mine and depleted stockpiles after the spring’s late season ice storm.

The eastern United States is also affected by the inventory shortage as much of what is mined in Goderich is exported south of the border.

The salt shortage has forced landscape contractors to devise ways to help their customers cope with the upcoming winter season in a safe manner.

Salt producers are allocating limited supplies first to municipalities. According to Landscape Ontario, private snow and ice removal contractors will have difficulty securing salt to service customer properties, leading to higher prices.

A scramble is currently taking place for salt supplies to be secured from other continents. Rock salt is also being imported from other locations overseas, including Morocco, Egypt and Chile, as well as other areas within North America. The cost of transportation involved in sourcing salt from other parts of the world is likely to double the price.

The alternative salt sources may not make up the current inventory shortfall, and some contractors may have no salt if supplies are depleted quickly in the event of a severe winter.

Landscape Ontario has advised contractors to work with property owners and managers to devise ways to deal with the inventory shortage. LO member contractors are approaching the challenge with a multi-pronged strategy that has safety in mind and involves both technology and best management practices.

The approach includes enhanced documentation and equipment calibration, the efficient and effective use of salt, and working with customers to eliminate non-essential areas from service to conserve salt supplies.

Some contractors have requested their customers pre-pay for salt to secure inventory. Non-salt-based products used to manage snow and ice is also part of the arsenal.

Stepped up training is being conducted by contractors so that their teams are aware of the shortage situation and will hone their skills to promote top efficiency in snow fighting.

Among Landscape Ontario’s suggestions for contractors to better prepare for winter in light of the salt shortage are:
  • Speak with suppliers to understand their situation.
  • Explore alternative ice melting products such as beet juice.
  • Contemplate mixing supplies with sand or other material.
  • Protect yourself contractually if possible. LO members can use a standard form snow and ice maintenance contract that can be found online at https://horttrades.com/snow-contracts
  • Communicate with customers to appraise them of what to expect.
Landscape Ontario suggests cooperative strategies are the key to achieve safety during the shortage, and contractors are working towards minimizing their customers’ risks this winter.

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