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Chapter 8 (Revised August 2013)
Winter Operations and Salt, Sand, and Chemical Management
8.8. Training for Salt Management and Winter Maintenance Operations

Training of winter maintenance staff and personnel is of particular importance for the effective and efficient use of chloride roadway deicers. The success of winter maintenance operations often hinges on changing the daily practices and perceptions about chloride deicer usage and updating the related value system and workplace culture. Such changes often require the personnel at different levels including managers, supervisors, operators and hired contractors to learn new ideas, technology and skills and to accept and implement new approaches. It is interesting to note that research has suggested that only 20 percent of the critical skills are obtained through training whereas the remaining 80 percent is learned on the job (TAC, 2003). Proper training and good management help agencies select the best tools available for the specific combination of site, traffic and climatic conditions, which may include conventional and emerging methods for snow and ice control (Smithson, 2004). Staff training was identified by the survey respondents as one of the ten most common practices that have been implemented or modified by their agencies (Fay et al., in review). A Utah DOT study found that during a 6-month period following simulator training, a plow driver's odds of being in an accident were lower compared with an untrained group. Additionally, data indicated that fuel efficiency was greater for the simulator-trained drivers (Strayed et al., 2005).

A comprehensive training program is recommended to demonstrate the purpose and value of new procedures, to address resistance to change, and to ensure competency of personnel carrying out their duties. The training can also focus on using less deicer without compromising public safety or mobility of the traveling public. According to the TAC (2003), components of training include:

  • A needs assessment of the staff.
  • Considering who is to be trained and how best to convey the information to an audience and maximize the learning (verbal and visual aids, group discussion, practical application, etc.).
  • Designing the training program to identify the learning goals, components and a logical progression, and developing a lesson plan.
  • Determining the training methods (in class, in field, post-storm debriefing, etc.)
  • Potentially having a current staff member train other staff, so as to add credibility and provide opportunity for follow-up questions and feedback.
  • Evaluation of the training program (including the implementation of the training material).
  • Assessing how much transfer of training occurred and the need for refresher courses.

The first step of training is to identify the learning goals, for example, LOS guidelines, principles of ice formation, chemistry of road salts, environmental impacts of road salts, to name a few. Annual training close to the onset the snow and ice season is desirable in order to ensure current learning goals are taught, reinforced and tested. The level of comprehension of the learning goals and compliance should be monitored throughout the snow and ice season. Refresher sessions are strongly recommended to reinforce the learning goals (TAC, 2003). The power of positive messaging has been proven effective in mitigating the adverse effects associated with adult training. For instance, utilizing statistical data to provide regular feedback to operators, such as posting annual material or cost savings, can reinforce the importance of their efforts. Operators should be encouraged to share information, experiment with new concepts, and challenge old ideas (TAC, 2003).

The successful implementation of salt management and maintenance strategies (e.g., pre-wetting and anti-icing) require acceptance and proper training of winter maintenance staff so that they understand the fundamental concepts underlying the practices (Smithson, 2004). Due to the diversity in chemical products, pavement surfaces, traffic and other conditions, there is still a lack of consensus in the appropriate application rate for a specific road weather scenario, which hinders the optimal use of deicers for snow and ice control. The NCHRP Report 577 provided guidelines for the selection of snow and ice control materials, including anti-icers, deicers, pre-wetting and abrasives (Levelton Consultants, 2007). Guidance on application rates for anti-icing, deicing and sanding has been provided by Blackburn et al. (2004) and Wisconsin Transportation Information Center (1996). The Salt Institute (2007) provided guidelines for salt application in The Snowfighters Handbook: a Practical Guide for Snow and Ice Control. Devries and Hodne (2006) discussed the findings of work done by the Iowa DOT and McHenry County (Illinois) Division of Transportation using blended anti-icing and deicing agents.

The American Public Works Association (APWA) developed a Winter Maintenance Supervisor Certificate training program with the goals of expanding knowledge and preparation, increase understanding of winter weather, better use of deicing and anti-icing products, available equipment and how to maintain it, enhancing communication with the public, and improving training; taught in a workshop format (APWA, 2013).

The important role of technology in staff training has been validated by agencies. One tool for training is the computer-based training (CBT), developed under the leadership of AASHTO and for the winter maintenance staff in state and local governments. The course consists of several lessons containing a total of about forty units, covering a host of topics about winter roadway management. The CBTs were updated with the latest research and operational techniques by 2010 and were converted to a web-based application in 2012 (Personal communication, L. Smithson, September 14, 2012).

Another advanced tool for training is the high-fidelity simulator, which has been utilized to enhance the performance of Utah DOT maintenance operators (snowplow drivers). In such a simulator, different scenarios have been developed to address the DOT user needs in managing incidents and to customize the training program. Overall, the simulator training was found to decrease the accidents ratio and reduce cost and fuel usage, when the performance of simulator trainees was compared against that of a control group (CTC & Associates, 2008). In MnDOT's Salt Solutions Program, plow drivers are trained in virtual snow plow cabs about how to use deicing products  in "the right amount, at the right time, in the right way" (Leaner and Greener, 2012).

A recent survey conducted by the Western Transportation Institute found annual operator training and "snow universities" are an important tool to reduce the impacts of chloride deicers on the natural environment (Fay et al., in review). Many survey respondents agreed that the training helped their state or agency to mitigate or reduce the impacts of chloride deicers.

The Transportation Association of Canada set out the following learning goals and best practices related to winter operations and salt management training (TAC, 2003).

Salt Management Policy

  • Understand the definition and importance of level of service and that the goal is to achieve the prescribed level of service.
  • Understand the organization's Operating Policies and their application to winter operations.
  • Understand the organization's Salt Management Policy.

Principles of Ice Formation

  • Understand slippery road conditions are a result of water being cooled below its freezing point on the road surface.
  • Understand the sources of moisture on the road include dew, rain, and snow.
  • Understand dew point and what conditions will lead to dew forming on the road surface.
  • Understand what conditions will lead to frost and black ice forming on the road surface.
  • Understand the importance of pavement temperature in making snow and ice control decisions.
  • Understand why bridges freeze first.

Science of Freeze Point Depressants

  • Understand the concept of a freeze point depressant.
  • Understand that deicers and anti-icers are used to prevent or break the bond between snow and ice.
  • Know the chemical composition of rock salt, and other products used by the transportation agency.
  • Understand that brine rather than the solid material melts the snow and ice.
  • Understand the phase diagram for the chemicals that are used in the organization.
  • Understand the implication of product concentrations greater than the eutectic concentration.
  • Understand the criteria for the selection of de-icing and anti-icing chemicals.
  • Understand the relationship between chemical concentrations and freeze point.
  • Understand that dry and pre-wetted products take time to work.
  • Understand that a change from a solid to a liquid requires heat and can rapidly cool a road surface.
  • Understand the testing requirements and risks associated with the introduction of new snow and ice control chemicals.
  • Understand the principle of refreeze.

Material Use

  • Understand the role of traffic and crossfall of the road in forming and distributing brine.
  • Understand when to windrow and when to spin a pre-wetted solid.
  • Understand how to treat special areas such as bridges and culverts, super-elevations, intersections, hills (crests, sags, inclines), bus stops and high wind conditions.
  • Understand that chemical should not be applied to dry pavement where drifting snow is not sticking.
  • Understand when to use and not use specific products, taking into account pavement temperatures, forecasts, time of day, humidity, traffic volumes etc.

Brine Production and Use

  • Understand the procedure for making snow and ice control liquids from solids.
  • Understand the importance of quality control and product concentration.


  • Understand the benefits of pre-wetting, solid product and abrasives.
  • Understand the difference between proactive anti-icing and reactive de-icing.
  • Understand how dry materials are pre-wetted.
  • Understand that salt and sand can bounce or be blown off the road and that this product loss can be reduced by pre-wetting.


  • Understand the concepts of liquid anti-icing.
  • Understand the benefits of a proactive anti-icing approach.
  • Understand how to fill spreaders and anti-icing units with liquids.
  • Understand the health, safety and environmental precautions that need to be taken when handling liquids.
  • Understand how to measure brine concentrations.


  • Understand the timing of plowing operations so that products are not plowed off the road prematurely.
  • Understand the importance of timely plowing.
  • Understand how to efficiently plow each beat/route.

Road Salt and the Environment

  • Understand that chlorides are mobile in the environment.
  • Understand that road salt may attract some wildlife to the road, potentially increasing the hazard of animal/vehicle collisions.
  • Understand that high salt levels can harm vegetation and agricultural crops adjacent to the roadway.
  • Understand that high salt levels can harm animals including fish living in streams, wetlands and lakes.
  • Understand that it is desirable to only use enough chemical to achieve the prescribed level of service.

Maintenance Yards

  • Understand that all salt and sand/salt blends should be covered to minimize salt loss.
  • Understand that salt spillage is wasteful and can be harmful to the environment.
  • Understand the salt-handling activities that result in wasteful releases of salt to the environment.
  • Understand how these salt-handling activities should be carried out to prevent the wasteful release of salt to the environment.
  • Understand that timely yard maintenance and repairs are necessary to control salt loss.
  • Understand maintenance yard salt cleanup procedures that must be followed.

Snow Disposal

  • Understand how to manage the snow pile to facilitate melting.
  • Understand the measures to be used to control nuisance effects (noise, dust, litter).
  • Understand how to monitor and record chloride, metal, pH, TPH and suspended solids in meltwater discharges.
  • Understand how the snow disposal system has to be managed to be cost-effective and to reduce environmental and social impacts.

Managing Snow Disposal Sites

  • Understanding how to manage the snow pile to facilitate melting.
  • Understanding the measures to be applied to control nuisance effects such as:
  • Noise from trucks and equipment.
  • Visual impacts such as dirty snow piles and vehicle and site lights from nighttime dumping.
  • Dust.
  • Litter and debris.
  • Understanding how to monitor, and record the chloride, metals, pH, Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) and suspended solids in the meltwater discharges.
  • Understand how the snow disposal system has to be managed to be cost effective and to reduce environmental and social impacts.
  • Understand the importance of proper record keeping and how to complete the required documentation on snow received and quality of meltwater being discharged.

Record Keeping

  • Understand the importance of timely and accurate records.
  • Understand the importance of good records for mounting a due diligence defense in the event of a lawsuit.
  • Understand how to complete the organization's activity/ storm reports.
  • Understand the importance of recording actions and inactions and the rationale for each.
  • Understand the importance of knowing the beat/route and what it takes to properly maintain it to the prescribed LOS.


  • Understand the concept of putting out the right material, in the right amount, at the right time, and leaving it there long enough to do the job.
  • Understand how the electronic controller and gate settings on each spreader must be set to achieve the specified application rate.
  • Understand how to calibrate each spreader to ensure that the right amount of material is being spread.
  • Understand how to recognize when re-calibration is necessary.

Drift Control

  • Understand the role and effective placement of snow drift control devices (structural snow fences, snow ridging, agricultural stubble, living snow fences). More information on snow fence and berm design is included in Chapter 3-10

Weather Forecasts

  • Understand the kinds and sources of weather information.
  • Understand how to read a weather forecast.
  • Understand what can affect local weather conditions and why weather might vary from one location to another.
  • Understand lake effect snowfalls.
  • Understand that wind chill does not significantly affect absolute road temperatures but does affect the rate of cooling.
  • Understand when a forecast could be wrong.


  • Understand that a wind of 15 km/hr (9.3 mph) is needed to drift snow.
  • Understand how wind changes can signal an approaching or passing storm.

Weather Tracking

  • Understand how to monitor weather conditions and anticipate changes.
  • Understand how to read a radar image and use the information in decision-making.

Weather and Decision-Making

  • Understand how weather forecasts can be used in making snow and ice control decisions.

Pavement Temperatures

  • Understand the concept of heat balance and how it can affect pavement temperatures.
  • Understand how to read a pavement condition forecast.
  • Understand how pavement condition forecasts and real time information can be used in making snow and ice control decisions.


  • Understand the components and purpose of RWIS installations.
  • Understand how to read and interpret RWIS data.
  • Understand how to properly mount a truck-mounted IRT so as to avoid erroneous readings.
  • Understand that IRT's are for measuring temperature trends, not exact temperatures.
  • Understand why odd readings might be obtained (e.g. interference, out of calibration, acclimatization, buried utilities, shading etc.).
  • Understand precautions about handling and using IRTs.
  • Understand the role of pavement crossfall in snow and ice control and when to windrow and when to broadcast product.
  • Understand the importance of pavement surface temperature on snow and ice control decision-making.
  • Understand how to track pavement temperature trends.
  • Understand what factors can affect pavement temperatures and how knowledge of these factors can be used to predict temperature changes.
  • Understand how to treat different pavement conditions during different types of weather events. Also, good pavement design can help improve road salt performance, minimize usage for the same or better level of service and safety, and thus reduce environmental impact.
  • Monitor pavement temperatures to assist in making decisions. This can be done when mobile using hand held or truck mounted infrared thermometers. Road Weather Information Systems can provide a surface and subsurface pavement temperature at a fixed location, and can support the generation of a pavement condition forecast as well as real-time pavement condition information.
  • Record pavement temperature trends in daily logs, along with pavement conditions, weather conditions and winter treatment strategy.
  • Test pavement temperature monitoring equipment at least annually to ensure that they are operating correctly. Inaccurate equipment should be recalibrated, repaired or replaced.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 8
Winter Operations and Salt, Sand, and Chemical Management
8.0 Introduction
8.1 Selecting Snow and Ice Control Materials to Mitigate Environmental Impacts
8.2 Reducing Sand Usage and Managing Traction Materials
8.3 Strategic Planning for Reduced Salt Usage
8.4 Stewardship Practices for Reducing Salt, Sand and Chemical Usage
8.5 Precision Application to Manage and Reduce Chemical Applications
8.6 Monitoring and Recordkeeping
8.7 Winter Operations Facilities Management
8.8 Training for Salt Management and Winter Maintenance Operations
  Appendix A - Acronyms
Lists: Examples | Tables | Figures
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