Sensor-Based Spreader Automation for Reducing Salt Use and Improving Safety
The United States currently uses $1.2 billion in deicing salt per year to combat inclement weather conditions. Typically, salt application rates are pre-set based on a variety of factors, though operators can temporarily alter application rates based on their own observations.
A paper presented at the 2019 TRB annual meeting proposed extending spreader automation to adjust discharge rates in real time in response to curves and inclines, as well as by installing Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to communicate hazard zones to spreading vehicles.
The report noted that operators typically would deploy 200 pounds of salt per lane-mile along the examined portion of road, due to its significant accident rate and the difficulty of altering deployment rates over short distances. The New York State DOTs general recommendation suggested using 160 pounds of salt per lane-mile, barring adverse conditions such as turns and inclines.
The experimental spreader was found to be able to effectively vary application rates between 150 and 350 pounds per lane-mile, depending on analysis of road conditions, and used on average only 170 pounds of salt per lane-mile.