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Running a separate salt truck, who does it?

Discussion in 'Ice Management' started by merrimacmill, Aug 4, 2010.

  1. merrimacmill

    merrimacmill PlowSite.com Addict
    from MA
    Messages: 1,823

    I notice that most guys in my area drive around with a V box in each of their pick-ups or 1 ton dump trucks. It doesn't seem that to many guys run a completely separate salt truck during a storm. I am wondering why? And for those who do, have you found the advantages to be worth the extra cost?

    I am really looking at how to tighten up my route this year, plow the most I can, and make the most $ out of each piece of equipment as I am looking at dropping landscaping services next year and becoming a snow only business. And running a separate salt truck is starting to look like more and more of an option.

    I have one truck with a salter, my 1 ton dump. The problem I have now is that during a storm a site will need salt, whatever that dump truck is plowing gets rushed through and the truck runs off to salt the other site. In the mean time the trucks whole route is falling behind and our response time is going down. Then the other issue is at the end of the storm. All of us will run through and plow every parking lot one last time, then one of us will jump in the dump truck and go salt everything which after 20 or so hours of plowing is a little intense, and (depending on the storm time) there is always this mad rush to get it all salted before 7am in just the few hours from when we are done plowing to when everything opens. The only way I can see to remedy this is to have a dedicated salt truck follow the rest of the fleet and treat each parking lot as they are finished being plowed. Any opinions?

    As for a truck, I was thinking something like a used international 4300 with a 6 yard or so mounted directly on the frame. Any thoughts on this?
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2010
  2. TCLA

    TCLA 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,707

    It's a great option for you....I would most definitely pursue this.

    Dedicated salt trucks are a must (at least for us they are). Most of our Internationals have belly blades. Not an ideal plow for parking lots or detail work ~ but they can help assist in creating windrows for the other plows or pushers until the time is right for them to salt. Their main function is salting only.

    Scheduling the timing of your dedicated plow trucks and salt only trucks within your response plans is easy. Executing your plan(s) with all that can and does go wrong is the challenge.
  3. mullis56

    mullis56 Senior Member
    from Indiana
    Messages: 824

    All of our salt trucks are just that, for reasons as TCLA mentioned above plus no risk of tearing them up plowing snow and we keep them in the shop until needed. Around here it is a normal except for the one or few truck guys.
  4. JohnnyRoyale

    JohnnyRoyale 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,935

    We've done it both ways, and IMO the best route is to run dedicated salt trucks. They get loaded shortly after the plow trucks and machines start and start salting right behind the plow trucks and machines. They sometimes have to wait around for a lot to clear up, or will bounce between two close sites and salt whatever is cleared. There is less pressure to rush through things by the morning after everything has been plowed. We still have two inserts we keep around in case of a breakdown, but for the most part all the salting gets done with dedicated trucks. Our International hooklifts have proven to be a wicked cool tool for us-something you may want to consider if you can justify it.
  5. TCLA

    TCLA 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,707

    You mean you don't have 12 of them pre-loaded and parked in the heated Royale shop waiting for the first flake to touch down? tymusic
  6. merrimacmill

    merrimacmill PlowSite.com Addict
    from MA
    Messages: 1,823

    When it comes to selecting a truck for salting, what do you guys look for? I've never owned a truck larger than a 3500 so its kind of foreign territory for me.

    Are you mounting the salters directly on the frame? I've seen this done and always wonder if it causes problems with the driveshaft, etc with the spillage. I am looking at a higher miles 2004 international 4300 with 196,000 miles on it. It was used as a dry van, but is now just a cab/chassis. The way I have been thinking of it is I will be putting almost no miles per year on a salt truck, and since salting will be its only purpose, I would prefer a lower initial purchase cost. But generally speaking, for a truck of this type, is that just "too many miles"??

  7. JohnnyRoyale

    JohnnyRoyale 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,935

    We used too-and it was sweet. We sold our old building and yard (which we outgrew) and moved to a location about an hour away with plenty of room-and closer to our homes.
    When we made that move we were seriously planning on scaling down a bit, but before we knew it, we were into it deeper than ever and were forced to rent something that would allow us to store salt and had some secure outside storage. So we rented a smaller location we primarily use for the winter (a friend of ours uses it in the summer) and dont have that luxury anymore.
  8. JohnnyRoyale

    JohnnyRoyale 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,935

    You can frame mount no problem. Be sure to add fenders.
    Those miles arent high IMO. Our Mack had 650,000 kms on it when we mounted that huge DownEaster to it. It pulled a float all of its life.
    Just be sure you have the axle ratings required to accomodate truck, salter and load or you may be in trouble with the DOT. Dry vans typically have light front ends.
    Our Internationals are legal for 7.5 tonnes of salt with 39K GVWR (16 front/23 rear)..
  9. cet

    cet PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,257

    I have 4 salt only trucks. 3 are frame mounted. I have the bottom of the salter covered to prevent the snow from falling on the frame, brake lines, fuel lines and every thing else down there. Frame mounted salters allow for more salt capacity. I have a lot of locations that have to be done in a short time frame and this seems to work best.

    I have seen lots of older trucks for good prices. Last year I bought a GMC 6500 with a dump bed, 3126 Cat and a 10' Boss blade that had 53,000 miles for $15,000. It is a 2001 that didn't see the road until 2003.
  10. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    We run a couple trucks for "salting only" but they still have plows on the front just in case. Example: Plow truck leaves the lot, couple minutes later the only car left in the lot leaves, when the salt truck shows up he can clean up that one spot instead of just salting around it.

    The salting only trucks are great for your foreman or supervisors to check up on what got done, and if theres a small touch up that needs to be done or something, they can do it.
  11. Westhardt Corp.

    Westhardt Corp. Senior Member
    Messages: 845

    I worked with an operation a few years back that ran everything as "dual-purpose" (plow/salt), but I modified that protocol somewhat for them. Most of the trucks had at least a 2 yd V, a couple had 4+. We did a lot of larger lots, so we would send a 2 yd truck out for front line plowing/.salting, and then the 4 yd+ trucks (F-550s, one of which was mine) were the "salt" trucks. We had nice new 9' blades on them, but we were the "back up/clean up" guys. If we dropped our blades, it's because either the weather picked up, or someone else dropped the ball and we had to pick it up and fix their f-up.

    On a side note, you veteran guys will appreciate this:

    On several occasions I would pull in and observe our guys working the hard way. After a few minutes of this, I would stroll down to ask nonchalantly "WTF are you doing, exactly? I should be spreading right now, and you're not even half done" and proceed to play a little "follow the leader" to show them how it should be done. Turns out (much to their chagrin) that doing multi-acre lots by driving 400' backwards between every pass wastes time. Who knew?? I told one guy "you seldom hit things when driving in the direction the vehicle was designed to go, and that long ladder on your rack is going to be a problem for you". He rolled his eyes...and promptly knocked over a light pole a week later with said ladder whilst driving backwards.

  12. ff610

    ff610 Senior Member
    Messages: 320

    I've done it both ways. The problem is I can't seem to have a salt truck without a blade on it for touch-ups, then I always think I need to use the truck more with heavy snows. I always end up using the salt trucks as front line plow/salt trucks then! I have spreaders on the back of every truck because I can't seem to get used to the idea of running every route twice. Efficiency was always my thoughts, but I've been re-thinking it again too. Mostly for my liquids though...
  13. Westhardt Corp.

    Westhardt Corp. Senior Member
    Messages: 845

    Simple rule of thumb--small trucks work best to move average snow, but have little salt capacity. Big trucks move big snow, and have superior salt capacity.

    I know a few of the larger outfits here (one in particular) that own virtually no "plow trucks", but lots of fancy salt trucks--all with blades (usually 10' V's) and a bunch of "iron" (pushers & associated equipment). They sub out the vast majority of the plowing, and simply run salt routes (rumor has it, very, very expensive salt routes...)

  14. JD Dave

    JD Dave PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,194

    We don't have plows on our our salt trucks. Generally in bigger storms where salt won't be needed for a few hours I plow with the spare tractor or pickkup. Frame mounted salter are the only way to go if you want to be snow only. Just remember when trucks sit all summer they need extra care taken to keep them from seizing.
  15. forestfireguy

    forestfireguy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,276

    To expand a bit on what Dave said, we run 5 V-box salters in 450 & 550 fords. They also plow. Last season we bought a Swenson electric tailgate unit to mount on one of our larger 750 dumps. It's really nice, spreads very well and carries 2X the salt of a 10ft Western V-box. 2X the capacity means less loading and trips to a salt bin, which means more time salting.........We & I assume most others who offer salting service make our best margins on salting, it's very efficient. Plus the boss here absolutely does not believe in dedicated purpose equipment(except min excavators), it keeps a truck that would otherwise sit for the winter producing. We will add 2 more like this this season, but they'll be on CDL trucks and will have even greater capacity. Good point on the front axle rating, lots of purpose built box trucks are "light duty". Here's the question I'd be asking if I were you- Am I going to make enough salting that the truck can sit 8-9 months out of the year, bear in mind salt eats things year round.......Or could I keep a dump truck busy at least sometimes during the other 8-9 months in my core business or even maybe running loads for a mulch yard or something??? We run a good sized design/build operation when it's not snowing, so our trucks roll year round.
  16. MidcoastMainiac

    MidcoastMainiac Member
    Messages: 95

    A plus for having a plow on the salt truck is, when you are salt/sanding those glare ice driveways that head down hill from the road, the plow acts as a bumper steering bouncing off the snow banks skidding down the hill.
  17. 04chevy2500

    04chevy2500 Senior Member
    Messages: 228

    we run two dedicated salt trucks. one is a one ton w a small plow just to scrape or push a little if needed. mainly as a backup. this one runs straight salt. the other is a 6 wheeler that has our sand salt mix. works well. whoever finishes first just runs back to the shop and grabs whichever salter they need and then begin the salt route. that way the salt isnt out in the weather either and the motors start without the helping hand of ether :) seems to work well for us. im sure you would find the same.
  18. Westhardt Corp.

    Westhardt Corp. Senior Member
    Messages: 845

    Just back it down the hill, don't be afraid.

  19. MidcoastMainiac

    MidcoastMainiac Member
    Messages: 95

    No fun in backing. Just point it straight, put plow into v position, shoot and go hoping you put enough salt and sand down to get back out and hope you can stop at the end. What a rush. lol

    I have one drive that is like this that is over a mile long. It uses all of my 2 yard sander full. Hate backing up that far.
  20. Knockah22

    Knockah22 Senior Member
    Messages: 245

    There was an article in snow magazine awhile back that talked about using dedicated salt trucks., but I cant find it. There are lots of benefits to a "salt" only truck. Currently we don't run any of trucks without plows, but at least 2 of our trucks begin salting far before all the plowing is done. It looks better to our clients, and a lot plowed but not salted is just as bad as never touching it, IMO . ( from a liability stand point). We used to lease a int 4300 and it worked great for us. Although you may fit more salt into a frame mounted spreader, Ive always like the idea of having a dump bed and tailgate salter. It gives you the option to haul snow, if need be. Hope this helps, and good luck getting into the snow only business.