Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
12:23 PM 13th November 2023

First Major Gritting Run Of Season As Temperatures Drop

Gritters went out over the weekend for the first significant operation of this autumn and winter season on motorways and major A-roads as temperatures dipped across the country.

Leading-edge technology, in-depth forecasting, and work with partners such as the Met Office and MetDesk means National Highways knows precisely where and when to treat roads with salt.

National Highways, which operates England’s 4,500-mile strategic road network, is urging drivers to take care during the poor weather while also giving gritting teams space to operate.

Darren Clark, Severe Weather Resilience Manager at National Highways, said:
“We manage a huge roads network nationwide – with over 4,500 miles of motorways and A-roads.

“Not all roads will need treating on any given day. Gritters may need to go out in some regions if road temperatures fall below +1 degrees C, and if there is a risk of ice forming, but not in other areas if conditions are not as cold.

“National Highways is committed to treating every road which needs to be treated – whenever it is needed. We are armed with the latest technology, forecasting intelligence and years of experience to help us make informed decisions about where and when we need to spread salt to help keep road users safe in even the most adverse weather conditions.”

The government-owned company switched over to autumn and winter operations on 1 October, readying teams at 128 depots across the country to keep the country’s busiest roads open amid deteriorating weather.

This includes monitoring Met Office weather forecasts along with regular road assessments from meteorological experts MetDesk. The roads need gritting when road surface temperatures drop below +1 degrees C.

Motorists are also reminded to keep TRIP in mind this autumn and winter season – Top-up oil, water and screenwash; Rest every two hours; Inspect tyres; and Prepare for weather conditions.

Essential advice for motorists this winter season

Stick to the main roads where you can and only travel if necessary.
Slow down – it can take 10 times longer to stop in icy conditions.
Use a high gear – this will help avoid wheel spin.
Accelerate gently, using low revs. You may need to take off in second gear to avoid skidding.
You may need up to 10 times the normal gap between your car and the car in front.
Try not to brake suddenly – it may lock up your wheels and you could skid further.
Be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible.
Look out for gritters spreading salt or using snow ploughs, and only overtake if it's safe to do so.

National Highways last year completed the assembly of its new £44m two-year investment in a fleet of 252 Romaquip-Volvo gritter vehicles, some of which carried out winter operations last year, and all of which will be involved in salt spreading this season. The investment now means the organisation has around 530 gritter vehicles available this winter.

Vehicles in our winter gritting fleet can carry up to around 12,000 kg of salt, or 8,400 kg of salt and 3,600 litres of brine at any one time. The Romaquip-Volvo gritting vehicles can spread up to 50mph, encouraging traffic to keep moving more effectively on the roads even when they are being treated. When not treating they can travel up to 56mph.

However, National Highways is keen for motorists to continue to give gritter vehicles the time and space they need to do their jobs – to keep us all safe when we are travelling on its motorways and A-roads.

Darren added:
“As our gritting teams go out more and more to spread salt on the roads this coming autumn and winter season, our message is simple to all road users: ‘Please be patient and give us the time and space to do what we need to do to keep you safe.”

Ready for autumn and winter seasons

Autumn and winter can bring more adverse and severe weather conditions which can affect motorists and these include fog, heavy rain, high winds and gales and ice and snow.

Along with more than 250 weather stations, National Highways works with independent meteorological experts Metdesk which run from October 1 to April 30 and complement the national Met Office weather forecast, providing a level of granularity and precision about changing road surface temperatures across our road network. This gives us the detailed knowledge determine where and when to salt roads so they remain open and safe for people to use.

All of the information we gather helps us to inform road users about current road conditions whatever the weather. We also share information through channels including our website, third party travel providers including sat nav companies and local radio stations.

Explore more online

National Highways has lots of advice on its website around travelling in severe weather conditions, including high winds and gales, fog, rain and snow and ice. Visit the travelling in severe weather web page.

Weather forecasts and information can be found on the Met Office website.

Travel information can be found by visiting National Highways’ Travel updates page, and by following @highwaysnwest @highwaysneast @highwaysseast @highwaysswest @highwayseast @highwayswmids, @highwaysemids @highwaysyorks on X or calling the National Highways Customer Contact Centre on 0300 123 5000.