By Cheryl Higley
Several areas of North America experienced salt supply issues amid an unrelenting winter season. Should private snow & ice management companies expect similar challenges for this coming winter?
Demand is expected to be high — and mines may struggle to keep up — as contractors order their regular winter supply, replenish their reserves and/or order extra to head off another potential shortage.
“There is no question inventories will be limited to start this winter,” says Todd Martin, sales manager of WGS Salt. “Everything was completely wiped out this winter. Six months may sound like plenty of time to restock salt terminals across the country, but when you start the off-season with zero inventory, it’s not going to happen in time for winter.”
Lisa Stapleford, vice president of Oceanport, LLC, says supply will also be affected by state highway departments and municipalities stepping to the front of the line, limiting access by private contractors.
“Supply is going to be tight since state departments are in great need to get back up to their 100% full marks by winter. This is going to put a strain on the salt available,” she says, noting that the state of Pennsylvania alone went out for bid on more than 1.4 million tons of salt in May.
Martin says transportation logistics may throw a kink in the supply chain — much as it did this past winter when winter weather forced road closures, rail delays and shipping waterways iced over:
“Whether you boat, barge, rail or truck salt into the terminals, you simply can’t get all the salt needed back in place by December 1.”
Stapleford agrees: “We cannot magically make continuous salt supplies appear (though we wish we could). Trucking will be a big factor this summer as salt vendors have to compete with the summer commodities [stone, mulch, asphalt, etc.] for the available hauling resources.”
Given the challenges that are expected — particularly closer to winter — suppliers made the following suggestions:
- If possible, increase your storage capacity and begin procuring salt now to take advantage of volume and preseason discounts.
- Know how much you should have on hand to start the season and proactively plan for replenishments.
- Know where your supply is coming from and plan for any challenges. Discuss supplier capabilities with your distributors to make sure they can deliver on their promises.
- Evaluate the service you received this past winter. Were your suppliers able to provide the materials? Begin building and/or reinforcing relationships with your suppliers, including secondary suppliers you can rely on when necessary.