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Truckers Want Study of Conn.’s Highway Treatments

Fri April 08, 2011 - Northeast Edition

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The chemical mixture used to clear Connecticut’s highways may have done a good job eating through this winter’s heaps of ice and snow, but truckers believe it also could be eating through the undercarriage of their rigs.

The Motor Transport Association of Connecticut wants the Department of Transportation commissioner to study the corrosive effects of the chemical road treatments on state, local and private vehicles, as well as on roads, bridges and the environment.

“It’s really a major concern for the trucking agency,” said Michael J. Riley, the association’s president. “This new substance that they’re putting down is eroding parts of the trucks. It gets into the brakes and the body and causes significant damage.”

Riley said some members of his organization, which represents 1,200 companies, planned to bring damaged parts of their trucks to the March 14 public hearing with the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee. He said the truckers believe the mixture of liquid calcium chloride and salt works well, but want to know if there is a better alternative.

“I’ve had several discussions with my members who say, ’This stuff is just chewing up my equipment,”’ Riley said. “They can’t afford to replace it.”

Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee, said he’s interested to hear what the truckers have to say because he’s not aware of any problems with the solution, which the DOT began using during the 2006-07 winter season.

Guerrera said he used to receive gripes from motorists about the sand/salt mixture the state used previously on highways.

“What I used to hear all the time was, many consumers were concerned when we put sand on the road that it would kick up and ruin their windshield and ruin their cars,” he said.

Kevin Nursick, a spokesman of the DOT, said Connecticut was one of the last states to switch over from sand/salt mix to a “salt priority” or “chemical priority” that most states use. He said the DOT has been pleased with the results and complaints have been rare.

“Without question, we have been extremely happy with the chemical priority road treatment protocol. I think you would even hear that feedback from the public, particularly this year. There’s no question it’s been more effective for us than the previous sand/salt policy,” Nursick said. “I hope we would not be going down a road where we’d be using sand/salt. That would set us back.”

Nursick said washing a vehicle should be part of a driver’s winter routine.

“We were always putting salt down before, so proper vehicle care is always part of the winter regimen. You’ve got to take care of your equipment,” he said, adding how the DOT has not noticed any corrosion problems with its vehicles. He said automakers have improved on making their vehicles more resistant to corrosion.

“Are these materials corrosive? Yes they are and they always have been,” he said. “When you get a break in the weather, it certainly isn’t going to hurt to hose off the vehicle. This is the price we pay for living in a winter weather state.”

Riley, however, said that’s not always easily done with tractor trailers. He said there are federal environmental regulations concerning truck washing and how to handle the run-off.

“You just can’t wash trucks whenever you want to,” he said. “It’s not as simple as taking out a hose and washing it off.”

DOT trucks have been equipped to dispense the hardened salt and liquid calcium chloride, either individually or simultaneously. The salt is only effective at certain temperatures. The liquid improves its effectiveness in colder weather, creating a slurry on the road that Nursick said “feeds on itself,” making it easier to be plowed off the highway.

Nursick said the new treatment is more environmentally friendly than sand because it sticks to the roads. The state used to spend about $7 million at the end of the season to sweep the roads from the sand, but some would still enter rivers and streams.

The DOT also is using a brine solution to pre-treat state roads, sometimes up to a week before a storm hits. The water evaporates and leaves a fine salt residue that becomes semi-bonded to the road. Nursick said it can lie dormant until snow and ice fall and activate it.

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