Gritters every year head out onto our roads to make them safe from icy conditions and reduce the risks of accidents. They’re a core part of keeping the nation moving in wintertime, and here at Grounds Care Group, we’re proud to play a part in that mission.
Today, we’ve collated some of our favourite gritting facts to share.
While this may sound absolutely bizarre, gritting doesn’t just help ice to dissipate, it can also help stop the asphalt from melting.
As a black material, asphalt will actually absorb heat, which may reduce friction, causing slippery driving conditions. So, if temperatures are hot, road tar can melt slightly, making it appear ‘wet’. By spreading grit, it cools the road down.
In summer, gritting lorries may also spread crushed rock dust, which helps with traction in hot weather.
You may think that because a gritter is called as such, it spreads grit. In fact, we call it gritting because, historically, grit was used. Nowadays we use rock salt in various forms. There’s mined salt, which is the brown salt you often see in grit bins, and then sea salt.
As well as traditional rock salt, we use a variety of different salt types on roads.
At Grounds Care Group, we use marine salt as it’s the most effective and sustainable type. Others use mined salt, which is the brown type most associated with gritting. Salts are often blended with anti-caking agents, sawdust, and other diluters.
While grit is spread on the roads, in order for it to become truly effective, it needs to be grounded up by random vehicles traveling over it. This helps to disperse the grit evenly over the road.
As vehicles drive over the grit, it also gets heavily pressed into the road and any existing ice, helping it create a saline mix which melts and clears the road.
At what temperature does salt stop working to melt ice?
Salt, when mixed with water, creates a saline solution, which starts to freeze at around -8°C, meaning that in really cold weather, salt is ineffective. This doesn’t necessarily mean that roads can’t be made safe as there are alternative methods, but it does mean that knowing the weather conditions accurately and reading forecasts is the key to a successful gritting service.
Excess salt in waterways causes the nitrogen cycle of plants to be damaged, increased salt levels in freshwater will impact the ecosystems that rely on relatively low salt content water and more.
The road salt used is also corrosive, and humans must use PPE to spread it, but animals and other creatures that come into contact with it don’t have the same luxury. It’s important that gritting companies look into alternatives to help reduce the negative impact that grit has.
Grounds Care Group uses marine salt and are investigating better alternatives that don’t impact plants and wildlife as much.
If we didn’t grit, the approximated cost to the economy would be around £2 billion annually thanks to road shutdowns and reduced access to key routes in the country.
Beet juice, made from the vegetable, contains a high sugar content, which works in the same way as salt, but isn’t corrosive and works up to -27°C, making it more effective as climate change affects our weather systems.
When sugar beet is processed, there is often a waste product left behind, which can be reused to create a solution that sprays onto roads and acts as a de-icer.
When you look at your thermostat and see that the temperature is only 4°C but gritters are out, you may be confused.
In practice, it’s because the road surface temperature is a lot lower or forecast to freeze overnight. Road surface temperature plays a key role, and this is when companies will send out their gritters.
Here at Grounds Care Group, we offer gritting services year-round, and work with you to provide a holistic approach to your needs.