Gritters ready for winter action despite fuel and driver shortages

Gritters are prepared to salt icy roads this winter. Picture: SUFFOLK HIGHWAYS

Gritters are prepared to salt icy roads this winter. - Credit: SUFFOLK HIGHWAYS

Gritting gangs are "absolutely ready" for the new winter season despite challenges around fuel and HGV driver supply, say highways chiefs.

Paul West, Conservative cabinet member for highways at Suffolk County Council, said the team was ready for whatever the cold months throw their way.

He said: “As the cold weather approaches, we are preparing our salt barns, gritters and teams for the start of the winter season. We have been carefully planning our winter-related activities to ensure the roads across Suffolk can be treated and kept open, as and when road surface temperatures drop.

“It is always a very busy time for those working around the clock to grit the roads and we very much appreciate the support and co-operation from residents as we do so.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for waste, Paul West, said the booking system had proved successful for the rubbish...

Highways cabinet member Paul West - Credit: Rachel Edge

“Despite the challenges surrounding fuel, HGV drivers and Covid, we are absolutely ready for the start of this season and committed to keeping our residents safe and the roads moving.

“We will also be filling registered grit bins over the coming months to further support our local communities.

“As ever, we encourage road users to drive to the conditions and only travel if it is essential during severe weather events.

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“If bad weather is forecast, we also advise drivers to pack blankets and shovels in case your vehicle becomes stuck.

“We also ask residents to park considerately when we grit so that we can pass through and treat roads for you and the emergency services.”

Suffolk Highways figures have indicated that last winter the service carried out 114 priority one treatments – those on A and B roads, emergency service main routes, hills in excess of 5% gradient, five-day a week bus routes and roads with 4,000 or more traffic movements per day.

That compares to the 60 recorded during the 1993/94 winter.

Gritting runs are carried out when temperatures go below 1C and Highways chiefs say that more accurate forecasting means the service is able to better predict when gritting runs will be needed, while a breakdown of geographical areas means some gritting runs only target part of the road network  if that threshold is not met all across the county.

Last winter’s rise in gritting runs were attributed to the February snowfall which required 26 priority one runs and 15 P2 treatments (those on routes into rural villages, schools and other bus routes) over a nine day period which covered 44,000 miles.

Those efforts also included help from 49 farmers on standby to help clear snow.

Between Suffolk Highways and roadworks contractor Kier, 71 gritter drivers are ready alongside external HGV drivers from the authority’s supply chain partners.

In addition, training is to take place over the next month with 12 new external HGV drivers.