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As the UK prepares for the next cold snap, data released by the Highways Agency shows efforts made to keep the road network open

Highways Agency
Highways Agency Gritter
2 February, 2012

As the UK prepares for the next cold snap, data released by the Highways Agency shows efforts made to keep the road network open

New data demonstrates the herculean effort made by the Highways Agency's winter fleet each year to keep England's strategic road network open during periods of severe cold.

During the last period of sustained sub-zero temperatures during four weeks last winter, the vehicles used to spread salt and remove snow covered over a million miles (1,328,102 miles) treating England's motorways and other strategic roads. This distance is the equivalent of 53 times around the world's circumference.

Martin Hobbs, Highways Agency head of severe weather strategy, said: "We work hard to keep England's motorways and major A roads open and safe for use during spells of very severe weather. Data from one of the UK's heaviest snowfalls (December 2010) shows the substantial and almost continuous efforts made by our winter service crews during the winter season to tackle the severe conditions we experience each year.

"Our winter fleet works around the clock when snow and ice is forecast, treating the roads with salt and clearing snow. Our drivers are out there doing their jobs, even when driving conditions are difficult.

"We're well prepared for this type of weather and work with our supply chain non-stop to keep the road network moving."

The data comes from technology, provided by Masternaut telematics, installed into over 400 of the Highways Agency's new winter maintenance vehicles.  Each vehicle can be monitored in real-time to give the vehicle locations and route, as well as the time the road surface was last treated and flow at which salt is being spread.

The use of this high-tech system forms part of a strategic approach by the Agency to help the road network cope with any fluctuations in the weather and ensure that the country can be best prepared with sufficient salt stocks in place.

As we continue through winter, the Highways Agency is reminding drivers to be prepared for their journeys, by checking the travel and weather conditions before heading out and being prepared with warm clothing and an emergency pack, which includes food and water, boots, de-icer, a torch, and a shovel in case of snow.


Notes for Editors
1. The Highways Agency is responsible for the strategic road network in England on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport. The strategic road network consists of motorways and other strategic roads.  All other roads in England are managed by local authorities. In Wales & Scotland the road network is managed by their respective agencies.

2. The Highways Agency strategic road network is around 4,300 miles; this includes sections of the network, which are managed under Design Build Finance Operate (DBFO) contracts.

The winter fleet, together with the winter service vehicles on Design Build Finance Operate (DBFO) managed sections of the Agency's network, make up the more than 500 winter service vehicles covering the Strategic Road Network.

3. From 25 November through to 22 December 2010 our winter fleet covered a total of 1,328,102 miles. Broken down this is an average of 332,025 a week, an average of 47,432 per week or an average of 108 miles per vehicle per day.

4. The Agency's winter fleet is equipped with technology supplied by the UK-based telematics and fleet tracking provider, Masternaut. The data is taken from Masternaut's vehicle tracking and telematics monitoring systems.  Masternaut record all vehicle activity including flowrate, plough activation spreading and make these reports available to managers in real-time via the web.

Since Autumn 2008, the Highways Agency has taken delivery of the 437 advanced new winter salt spreading vehicles which are now working across the strategic road network in England, a £45 million investment in winter resilience.

The new vehicles have improved the Agency's resilience against ice and snow, as they give the option of spreading dry or pre-wetted salt according to the conditions, giving the Highways Agency maximum flexibility for treating the roads in the face of the full range of winter conditions.

The vehicles can be fitted with snow plough attachments, and can plough and spread salt at the same time.

The modern pre-wet spreading mechanism makes it possible to spread salt more accurately and reduce the amount of salt used.  Pre-wetted salt treatments work by mixing dry salt stored in the hopper with brine stored in tanks alongside the hopper, which is then spun onto the road surface and starts working as soon as it is applied.

The new vehicles are linked to a data logging system so they can be tracked on the network; the system also monitors aspects of the vehicle's performance including the amount of de-icing materials being spread on the carriageway.  

5. Winter advice to road users: www.highways.gov.uk/winter
While salt is very effective at reducing the risk of ice formation, at very low temperatures there can be a risk of ice on road surfaces even when salt has been spread. Where roads have been treated, drivers are advised to pay particular care where local conditions such as road gradients, bends or overhanging trees mean there may be an increased risk of difficult driving conditions.
Drivers should take care around salt spreading vehicles and vehicles clearing snow and should only overtake if they can do so safely without driving on any un-cleared snow. Winter service vehicles are performing essential work to help keep roads open and may be travelling at low speed. It can take ten times longer to stop when it is icy, so allow more room to slow down and stop. Avoid losing control of your vehicle because of wheel spin, by using the highest gear possible. Avoid sudden braking, acceleration and sharp turns.

About Masternaut
Masternaut designs and delivers innovative solutions for managing the mobile workforce that enable customers and partners to achieve evolutionary step-changes in their performance and service delivery. Formed through the combination of established telematics providers, Cybit and Masternaut, the new Masternaut boasts the broadest range of telematics products, services and R&D capability in Europe.

The companies represented some of the fastest-growing private technology firms in Europe and were ranked 13th in the Sunday Times International Fast Track, having achieved more than 150% growth in sales during 2007-2010; whilst Masternaut was also featured in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Sunday Times Tech Track 100, and was also recognised on the Deloitte Fast 500 EMEA in 2009.

Masternaut has more than 550 employees and 10,000 customers across Europe and has been recognised by Berg Insight as Europe's largest telematics provider.

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