Gritters start their winter work on Cornwall’s roads

24 November 2023

And they’re off. Winter is officially starting tonight for Cormac’s highways team with the first gritting run of the season at 9.00 pm as temperatures drop across the county.

Gritter lorry

Cornwall's weather can be unpredictable, and the occurrence and severity of winter conditions varies considerably through the season and from year to year. To take account of all possible winter weather, we manage Cornwall Council’s winter service from October to April. Last year our teams treated 55,725 miles of road and used 9,800 tonnes of salt, helping to prevent ice forming across the precautionary network.

Weather stations in key areas provide real-time information and assist us in producing accurate forecasts to ensure gritters are sent out to the right places, at the right time. Our dedicated team of duty engineers monitor the weather 24/7 during the season, supported by highways staff, and our drivers are on standby to be called into action at any time.

Our decisions on gritting are based on road temperatures, rather than air temperatures, and salting is likely to take place whenever road temperatures are near freezing. Factors such as moisture, rainfall, heat retention and time of day or night will influence the decision. Typically, ice and frost tends to form and affect road surfaces overnight.  This is why we usually treat the roads after the evening peak traffic period or before the morning rush to minimise the disruption. However, when it is needed, we will often treat roads during the day, which can sometimes cause delays.

It takes around three hours to treat each of the 25 pre salting routes which carry around 80% of daily traffic. We also salt the roads to key sites such as hospitals, minor injury units, ambulance and fire stations, bus and railway stations and secondary schools.  

We currently have more than 15,000 tonnes of salt in stock strategically placed throughout Cornwall at 6 storage sites. This is more than enough for the average winter, but we will be ready to call on more if needed.

Steve Bayley, Network Manager said:“We plan well ahead to be ready for the arrival of winter and to make sure our experienced team is ready for action.

It is important road users drive according to the conditions – ice can still form on roads that have been gritted and extra care needs to be taken in winter weather. It is vital too that drivers are patient and give our gritter drivers the time and space they need to do their job to keep others safe.

For anyone living on a main gritting route, please remember to park considerately if so that our gritters can get through.”

Information about how we plan our winter maintenance activities can be found in our fact sheet. You can keep up to date with the winter service by following @cornwallcouncil on X (formerly known as Twitter). To view the areas we will salt over the next 24 hours you can use the council online mapping system.

The A30 from the boundary with Devon to Penzance and the A38, which are the main trunk roads through Cornwall, are the responsibility of National Highways which manages its own winter service. 


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