The Salt on our Roads - Wacker Chemie AG


The Salt on our Roads

Every winter would be a disaster without this WACKER team: the men at the loading dock of the Stetten salt mine ensure that many highways and major roads remain passable even during heavy snowfall. For they deliver what the snowplows need most: salt. A great deal of salt.

During heavy snow, the nine members of the salt loading team are on duty from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“Here in Stetten we can supply 6,500 metric tons of road salt per day, and our four external warehouses a further 6,000 tons,” says Michael Baur, head of the loading station. 12,500 tons in a single day. If you express this weight in terms of New York’s 93-meter high Statue of Liberty, then Baur and his team of eight load 55 such statues onto the trucks on a good day.

“The summers used to be quieter,” says the 44-year-old, “but the severe winters in the past few years have changed purchasing behavior fundamentally. The road maintenance depots have set up central warehouses which they fill long before the onset of winter.” However, in a harsh winter, local authorities and road maintenance depots still have to place additional orders. This means extra shifts for Baur and his team. Normally, loading time begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. But even in autumn it is often extended to 6 p.m., and on days with heavy snowfall as late as 10 p.m. “We always keep 1,000 tons of road salt in stock,” says Baur, “so that we can buffer a conveyor belt failure below ground.”

The Stetten team loads up to 12,000 tons of salt every day in snowy winters.

To be precise, not one, but two teams work in the loading station: four people man the dispatch control room, the other five are responsible for loading operations. First they direct the trucks onto the entry scale, then to the 40-meter-high silo. There, the truck is maneuvered under the loading nozzle, which an employee positions accurately so that the correct amount of salt pours onto the loading platform. Finally, the truck drives onto the exit scale.

“One particular shipment by railcar is also integrated into our workflow,” says Michael Baur – in this case, the team loads high purity industrial salt into a train bound for WACKER Burghausen. The chemical plant needs about 80,000 tons of industrial salt for chlorine electrolysis annually.

Overall, the loading team in Stetten delivered around 650,000 tons of salt last year. Most of it kept roads clear of snow in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, but distributors also deliver to municipalities in Austria and Switzerland.

Incidentally, team boss Michael Baur has a winter hobby which requires no de-icing salt at all: snowboarding.