Winter Preparation On England’s Highways

In winter, delivery work can require nerves of steel as drivers tackle some treacherous road conditions.

In winter, delivery work can become a nerve-wracking test of a driver’s skills and patience. As the colder months approach, every professional haulier and delivery driver is keeping a wary eye on the weather forecast in the hopes that Old Man Winter will be kind this year. However, behind the scenes Highways England is ready for anything that the elements may have in store for us.

Keeping Us On the Move

Like Father Christmas’ elves, the employees of Highways England have been busy for months, preparing for the ‘big one’. In the event of inclement weather, which can make winter delivery work both miserable and dangerous, the Highways England team is ready for battle.

Keeping the UK’s infrastructure up and running involves:

•1,300 specially trained gritter drivers

•Over 500 salt-spreading vehicles

•280,000 tonnes of salt

•130 winter service depots across the country

•250 environmental sensors, providing real-time monitoring of weather conditions and temperatures

Necessary Risk

According to roads minister Jesse Norman, “It is essential to keep our road network running throughout the winter. Highways England has informed us that they are well prepared for adverse weather, with enough salt to cover 610,000 miles of our motorways.” Although the wisest advice for road-goers during the winter months is to stay put if possible, that is rarely an option for hauliers. Despite the icy conditions in winter, delivery work must go on – and for many who drive for a living, it is ‘just another day at the office’. Fundamentally, the country’s economy and workers’ incomes rely on the ability to get out and do their job as efficiently and safely as possible.

Good Advice

Highways England’s team of professional drivers understands that the message of ‘stay home if you can’ does not always apply to this work sector. Employees are on call 24/7 during the colder weather, and are ready to hit the roads as soon as a viable threat is recognised. They rely on the common sense of the public and road travellers to be able to complete their work safely.

In winter, delivery work is painfully slow, but slowing down is the best advice these winter warriors can give to drivers who have to be on the roads. Attempting to pass these slow-moving gritter vehicles is also a major no-no. The temptation to overtake their trucks via the hard shoulder can result in collisions with stationary vehicles, and can also cause a hazard when the gritters are trying to exit at junctions.

Team Work

At the end of the day, we all recognize that we are simply trying to get a job done. Winter delivery work requires sharp wits, expert driving skills and your warmest thermals. A commitment to the job is admirable, but a responsible owner will call his fleet off the roads if the weather poses a serious risk to employees and/or equipment. 

The Highways England team of gritters are as prepared for the unknown as much as anyone can be without a crystal ball. Mutual respect and common sense while traversing the roadways keeps everyone safe, and will hopefully get you back home safe and sound and in decent time.

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange is the leading service for matching haulage jobs with available vehicles. They also provide expert articles on issues like the challenges of winter delivery work and other freight industry related topics. Over 4,800 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.

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