As days become shorter and nights chillier, Somerset County Council’s fleet of 23 gritters is ready to be mobilised as soon as the temperature drops below zero in coming months.
Salt barns across Somerset are fully stocked and the team is on standby to treat 900 miles of road when the mercury plummets.
Last year our fleet of nearly two dozen gritters went out on 66 occasions when freezing temperatures were forecast, covering 70,200 miles help prevent ice forming with 1842 route actions in total – a significant increase from previous years.
This year the fleet is being bolstered with 20 new snow ploughs and four new snow blowers. There are also three new weather stations to signal cold weather warnings.
“Our dedicated teams are ready to spring into action when needed after working hard throughout the year to make sure our salt is stocked and our equipment is checked,” said Cllr John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways.
“Be assured they’re checking the forecasts every day to ensure gritters go out whenever road surface temperatures drop, and frost or snow is anticipated.”
What roads do we treat?
We treat over a fifth of Somerset’s roads, marked in red on the map here.
Our 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?
We 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 our teams are out in the evening or early morning.
In the event of snow, we have established plans in place, working alongside the emergency services and partners to clear the network as quickly as possible. We can equip our gritters with snowploughs and have arrangements with farmers and snowplough operators who are employed to clear snow on our behalf. We prioritise our primary network and move on to clear our secondary and minor networks as resources allow.
Why don’t we salt every road in Somerset?
We can’t treat every road, as there aren’t enough gritters, drivers and depot staff to make this cost-efficient. However, we are carrying on our 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.