Salt myths and facts

Gritting myths

Here are some myths about gritting salt along with the factual information.

Myth: the council knew it was going to snow but did not grit

We have 2 weather stations in the borough, one on Blackstone Edge and one between Heywood and Middleton. Readings of the current weather conditions are sent from both stations to the Met Office every 10 or 20 minutes. From these readings, the Met Office produce 2 forecasts daily at 12 noon and 5.30pm which show the forecast air temperature, road surface temperature, wind speed and precipitation.

The forecasts are received in both text and graphical form, and from the information they contain, gritting treatments are planned. If there is any uncertainty in the information received, a telephone call is made to the Met Office forecaster.

If there are any major changes to the forecast at any time of the day, then the forecaster alerts our Winter Service Duty Officer with a text message.

Additionally, a 2 to 5-day forecast is received daily, along with a 21-day outlook throughout the core winter months of December, January and February. This allows gritting resources to be planned well in advance.

Myth: I’ve not seen a gritter on the network

We have 7 gritting vehicles to cover 350km of the road network across the borough. It takes approximately 3 hours for one vehicle to treat its entire route. The vehicles normally commence gritting 4 hours before the forecast says that the air or road surface temperature is to reach freezing point.

In the case of snowfall, the gritting fleet may be on the road continuously. However, it will still be 3-4 hours before they pass the same point twice as they will have to return to the depot to be refilled with salt.

When heavy snowfall is occurring then our priority is to keep the strategic network open. At these times, the gritting vehicles will be concentrated on the main roads and fitted with snowploughs, meaning estate roads may not be treated as frequently.

Myth: a gritter passed me but no salt was being spread

The current fleet of gritting vehicles are far more sophisticated than those of years gone by. Salt no longer sprays in all directions, covering the windscreens of cars and the legs of pedestrians. The computer-controlled mechanics now dispense the required amount of salt directly down onto the road. They can also 'throw' the salt to one side or the other to ensure the whole carriageway is covered even if the vehicle is driving down one side only.

However, this is not always a myth as the vehicle may not have reached the starting point of its treatment route, or maybe returning to the depot at the end of its route or to refill. Where a vehicle is not gritting, the operatives have been asked to turn off their yellow beacons if it is safe to do so, to prevent confusion.

Each gritting vehicle has a GPS system that tracks its route, speed, whether it is spreading salt, and if so, the amount being spread. Checks can be made as to the date and time a vehicle was on a certain road and what it was doing. The system also alerts the contractor's Duty Manager should the vehicle deviate from its usual route.