posted on Dec, 27 2014 @ 05:00 AM
Some background - for the past 5 years (not this year!!) I've been helping to run a local authority gritting operation, and contributed to one as
part of another job some 15 years back.
There is a very delicate balance between spending the money of mobilising a gritting fleet, with associated manpower and machinery costs - most of
which is always done on overtime - and the uncertainties of the weather forecasting when taking into account local conditions.
You see, a week out, a forecast is no good. 3 days out its better but only gives a vague idea. 24 hours out is even better still BUT conditions can
and do change rapidly. At this time of year most local authorities will be getting at least morning and afternoon updates, with other local updates
coming in as needed and even then local road surface temperatures are different at differing elevations/different local conditions and topography. The
weather here in the UK is massively unpredictable sometimes.
Usually authorities grit when the road surface temperature (RST) is likely to be 0 degrees for an extended period - the Highways Agency (responsible
for Motorways and some A Roads, grit on +1 degrees).
I had a situation a couple of years back when we did a 4am grit, followed by immediate snowfall which we were expecting and the gritting operation
covered, followed by a band of rain which washed the grit off (caused by a pocket of warmer air), followed by a band of clear sky that caused the
surfaces to flash over and freeze, immediately followed by a band of heavy snowfall - total time for all that was about 2 hours and the result was the
worst possible conditions at 6am during the start of rush hour. We turned the crews round and sent them back out when we realised what was happening
but the turn round is an hour, and by that time the gritters themselves got caught up in traffic build up and the associated problems of trying to
clear routes where people had already abandoned cars etc. Then, to add to our woes it snowed heavily again.
We followed that up with repeat operations over the next 48 hours by which time a lot of the drivers were on mandatory stand down for driving regs.
Its not easy to deal with. Its very very easy to criticise the response though and actually people should be praising the guys driving 15
tonne+ gritting machines in atrocious conditions in the middle of the night usually. In my time doing the work I've known one driver killed and four