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Fleet of faster, high-tech gritters assembled to keep motorways open

The new vehicles can travel 10mph quicker than earlier models when spreading salt.

23 October 2022

A £44 million fleet of 252 faster, cleaner and high-tech gritters has been assembled in preparation for freezing conditions on England’s motorways and major A-roads.

National Highways said the new vehicles can travel at up to 50mph when spreading salt.

This is 10mph quicker than earlier models, reducing delays for other road users.

The modern gritters meet the latest emissions standards for diesel vehicles, known as Euro 6.

A gritter driver
The new gritters allow drivers to spread salt with precision (Jacob King/PA)

They are also fitted with technology which means drivers receive the latest information on where and when to salt and can select the most appropriate treatment for different road conditions.

Around 144 of the new Volvo Romaquip gritters were deployed last winter, with the remaining 108 joining them at depots across England in recent months.

National Highways customer service director for operations Andy Butterfield said: “National Highways always strives to explore and embrace innovation to benefit our road users.

“These vehicles are environmentally friendly, have cutting-edge technological features and can be driven at a higher speed than older models.

A salt mountain
There are salt mountains at 128 depots across England (Jacob King/PA)

“We now have a total of around 530 vehicles ready to be deployed and all of them will play their part in helping our autumn and winter operations team, including our drivers, to carry out their vital work over the next few months to treat the road surfaces whenever and wherever it is needed.”

National Highways has stockpiled around 280,000 tonnes of salt for the coming months, with so-called salt mountains at 128 depots.

Between October 1 and early April each year, National Highways receives detailed weather forecasts from three providers and monitors road conditions.

When there is a risk of frost, ice or snow it sends gritters out to spread salt, which helps keep roads clear.

Gritters can also be fitted with snow ploughs.

National Highways severe weather resilience manager Darren Clark said climate change “does have an impact” on the work.

He told the PA news agency: “We are finding we might have a mild winter, but equally we might have a winter that is the third worst in the past 10 years in terms of salt usage or the number of times we’ve been out.

“We have to be prepared for both extremes.”

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