Winter gritting is used across the UK to make roads and access safer for visitors, staff and workers on grounds. Every year, gritters work through both day and night to keep the roads safe, and yet many aren’t sure exactly what gritters do, their benefits and best practice for gritting contracts.
As a company with years of experience in winter gritting, we have compiled the most frequent questions in this article to help you understand the benefits of gritting.
The Benefits of Road Gritting
Without winter gritting, delays would cost the UK economy £2 billion a year, cause major hazards and more people would be seriously injured.
The main benefits of gritting are:
Keeping local economies running
Maintaining road safety
Gritting uses salt to help dissolve snow and ice quickly. As salt is soluble, when it dissolves, it turns the ice or snow into a saltwater solution that has a much lower freezing point than water. This means that the risk of the ground freezing over is greatly reduced over the coming days.
Gritters work strategically. By studying the weather carefully, and judging the predicted rainfall, grit can be proactively applied to roads and pavements, reducing the risk of an overnight or early morning accident. Regular gritting of surfaces keeps a healthy layer of brine (saltwater) on the road, which reduces the ability for large sheets of ice to form.
Frequently Asked Winter Gritting Questions
When is the best time to grit?
We largely carry out gritting pre-emptively. For example, if we can see that freezing point happens overnight, we grit before the temperature drops to prevent the surface water from freezing over. Similarly, gritting before snow falls ensure that roads stay clear, so it’s important that we are as reactive as possible. However, the temperature gauge we’re largely looking at is Road Surface Temperature (RST), rather than air temperature.
What are the differences between road (RST) and air temperature?
Road Surface Temperature (RST) and air temperature vary massively. During the day in summer, roads can be unbearably hot to touch, yet on our skin we don’t feel the blistering heat. Radiation from the sun heats the roads during the day, which heats the air through convection. At night, this radiation isn’t present and the temperature of a surface drops quickly. RST is then often lower than the air temperature, meaning gritters go out even if the air temperature is above freezing.
Can you grit when it snows (or before)?
While you can grit when it snows, it’s not an effective use of resources. Snow needs to melt with the salt, so gritting before snow is key to helping to reduce the risk of snow causing damage to cars and creating hazardous conditions.
What do gritters spread on the roads?
Gritters use a combination of solutions, and each solution will vary from gritter to gritter.
Salt (sodium chloride) in varying percentages. Salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, meaning that in RST below 0oC, the road will not freeze.
Brine (salt and water solution). Brine is less harsh on the roads and reduces tarmac corrosion.
Sugar beet juice, left over from the extraction of sugars. A newer development in de-icing, sugar beet extracts can be used instead of traditional grit. Beet juice works at lower temperatures than salt, making a possible option in a changing world.
Anti-caking agents and sand are also used. These help to keep the salt separate and ensure a gritter can work optimally by stopping clumps.
How to Engage a Gritting Service
When planning for winter risks, such as snow and ice, choosing to engage the services of a gritting company sooner rather than later is imperative.
First, consider the routes you need gritting. Is it access to a car park, pavements or a large commercial area?
Then, consider whether you want to pay per visit, or pay on a fixed contract? Per visit is preferred by some whereas others prefer to know they are covered no matter the weather and choose a contract.
Finally, choose Grounds Care Group. We have salt depots and trucks at the ready across the width and breadth of the UK. We’re also focused on sustainable gritting, and can work with your sustainability goals. Get in touch today.