PennDOT says its crews are ready for another winter storm, but what about private plow drivers?

Some claim the state is "putting them on ice" when it comes to buying salt.

The salt at D&D Maintenance near Coopersburg will clear the parking lots at the popular Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley. But there's a problem.

"We're standing in a salt bin that's almost empty," said owner Dennis DeKrane. "I probably have enough for two snowstorms and then that's it."

Salt supplies are low everywhere, but some independent drivers claim state and local road crews are squeezing them out of buying what little is left.

"It's shut down. There is no salt available for any of us," said DeKrane. "PennDOT closed it down -- only for the road crew people. Nothing for the independents."

PennDOT spokesman Ron Young insisted the agency isn't trying to put the squeeze on anybody.

"How do they lay claim to this salt?", he asked. "How is it 'their salt?'"

According to Young, the state has contracts with several suppliers that guarantee highway crews the salt they need as soon as it's available.

Essentially, PennDOT and local road crews are first in line. He said highway crews must take priority.

"If people want to get out and do things and you want commerce to keep moving, it's very important," he said. "We need to have those highways, the expressways and everything, clear."

But DeKrane and other private plow drivers said they can, and have been, sued by customers and hospital patients who slip on icy parking lots.

"It's great to have the roads clear to get to the grocery stores, to bring your groceries home, but then you get out and you slip and fall," said DeKrane. "You can't even make into the shopping center, so it goes two ways."

Young said PennDOT just got a new shipment of salt from the Port of Wilmington in Delaware.

He said suppliers have informed PennDOT there is salt left down there, if private drivers are willing to make the trip to pick it up. DeKrane said he was turned down there, because municipal road crews have already claimed the salt.