Somerset Council’s fleet of 23 gritters is ready to be mobilised across 900 miles of road as soon as the temperature drops below zero this winter.
Last year Somerset Councils gritter fleet went out on 67 occasions when freezing temperatures were forecast. There were 2,058 route actions in total, helping to prevent the formation of ice across 83,200 miles of Somerset’s roads.
Councillor Mike Rigby, Somerset Council’s Executive Lead Member for Transport and Digital said: “As the winter season approaches, it becomes even more vitally important that road users travel according to the conditions.
“All the preparation of our depots, and all the filling of our salt barns has taken place throughout the summer, so that everyone is good to go when the temperatures drop.
“The team are checking the forecasts every day; as soon as they get the call, the gritters are ready to go.”
It’s important road users drive according to conditions – ice can still form on roads that have been gritted and extra care needs to be taken in winter weather. It’s vital too that drivers do not try to overtake gritters while they are treating roads – amazingly, this happens on a regular basis in icy, hazardous conditions.
Gritter driver Josh Russell had this advice: “Please be patient and take care. Allow us to do our job so you can get to yours safely.”
Last year, Somerset’s farmers were hugely helpful in supporting the Council’s winter services, by taking on snow ploughing duties when conditions became challenging.
What roads do we treat?
They treat over a fifth of Somerset’s roads, marked in red opens in a new windowon the map. Their gritting network covers all last year’s routes plus it has been increased slightly this winter.
Somerset Council’s main priority is to keep the busiest routes clear whenever ice or snow is expected. The priority is roads that link major towns, villages and communities on high ground and the important routes across the County for long distance travel.
When do the gritters come out?
They carry out gritting when road surface temperatures are predicted to drop below 1°C and ice or snow is expected. Precautionary gritting normally takes place before the formation of ice – so that generally means their teams are out in the evening or early morning.
In the event of snow, they have established plans in place, working alongside the emergency services and partners to clear the network as quickly as possible. They can equip their gritters with snowploughs and have arrangements with farmers and snowplough operators who are employed to clear snow on their behalf. They prioritise their primary network and move on to clear their secondary and minor networks as resources allow.
Why don’t they salt every road in Somerset?
They can’t treat every road, as there aren’t enough gritters, drivers and depot staff to make this cost-efficient. However, they are carrying on their work with parish councils to fill roadside grit bins on request and are continuing to run a community-led snow warden scheme.
Rain can wash salt away and in very low temperatures gritting may not be enough to prevent freezing – so drivers are always advised to take extra caution in winter.