On Friday Falkirk Council launches a new real-time map on its website that will allow residents to track its gritters.
It hopes that making the information readily available will stem the hundreds of calls the council receives every winter with questions about the service.
This winter they are also introducing a new automated system that uses GPS to ensure the right amount of grit required for each stretch of road.
And they have 1200 grit bins in place to allow the community to help themselves, all of which can be seen online at www.falkirk.gov.uk/gritmap.
As so many of those calling are looking for the same information, roads manager Gary Neil was happy to answer some gritty questions.
How many gritters and winter vehicles do you have?
The fleet has eight main line gritters plus four substitutes to cope with services and breakdowns. There are also smaller gritters and other vehicles suitable for filling grit bins or hand gritting as well as mini tractors for treating footways. Additional vehicles are available to support the fleet.
How much grit can the vehicles hold?
The smallest vehicles hold around one tonne and main-line gritters can hold up to almost nine tonnes.
How much grit do you use during the winter months to treat roads?
On average we use around 3880 tonnes of grit during a normal winter. In the winter of 2017/18 – the Beast from the East – we used 8897 tonnes.
How do you decide where to grit?
We have a statutory duty to grit priority one roads first and keep them clear. These are main roads that are heavily used, bus routes, and roads essential to our emergency services. To see priority roads in your area visit www.falkirk.gov.uk/gritmap. Priority pavements are where footfall is heaviest, including town centres.
What distance of roads do you cover when gritting?
Priority one routes are around 201 miles of roads – about one-third of our overall network length. The Falkirk Council area has over 613 miles of roads in total, so those not being treated require extra care when the weather is bad.
Why haven’t I seen a gritter?
It takes a gritter around three hours to treat its allocated route. They normally start gritting before the forecast says road surface temperatures will reach freezing point. If it snows, snow ploughs are attached to each of our main line gritters and they will be out on the road continuously – but ploughing takes longer and the focus is on keeping priority one routes clear.
I’ve spotted a gritter that’s not moving, why is that?
The drivers need to have a break – it’s the law – so that’s probably why. Or it may be that the vehicle has broken down and is awaiting recovery.
Why do gritters spend so much time in and around Grangemouth?
The council’s depot and salt dome are both based in Grangemouth. That means all our gritters have to set off, return to re-fuel, load up with more salt, and change drivers from the same area.
When I drive behind a gritter, they aren’t always spreading grit/salt. Why is that?
Each gritter has an allocated route and not all routes begin in Grangemouth (where our depot and salt dome is located). A gritter won’t start spreading until it reaches the start of its allocated route. Or it may have used all its salt and be heading back to the depot for a refill. It can also be deceptive – often the driver targets grit to one side of a road then the other to ensure the whole carriage way is covered, so it may look like grit isn’t being dispensed when it is.
How many grit bins does Falkirk Council have?
We have around 1200 grit bins that can be used by members of the public to treat public roads and footpaths. If you wish report an empty grit bin email the location of the bin to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you decide where to put grit bins?
Grit bins are on non- priority one routes where there are difficult bends, inclines, junctions and turning areas that are prone to icing. They may also be near places such as adapted housing, school crossing patrols, sheltered housing complexes, steps, underpasses. They will also be provided where local residents agree on a suitable location and there is confidence that the grit bin will be properly used.
Can I buy grit from the council to use on my private property?
No, it is only for use on the adopted public road network. Salt required for private areas such as driveways and private roads can be bought from DIY stores and builders merchants.
Why do we spread grit?
Although it is called grit, it’s actually rock salt, which lowers the freezing point of moisture on road surfaces, so it stops ice forming and causes existing ice or snow to melt. Generally, on the roads, salt loses its effectiveness once the temperature falls below -7 degrees centigrade so pre-salting the road forms a separating layer.
This means that if snow falls it won’t freeze on the road surface and vehicles moving over it help to churn it off.