Give Gritters Space

Highways England launched a campaign today at our A-one+ motorway depot in Birdwell, Barnsley, calling for drivers to ‘Give Gritters Space’.

Despite having flashing amber beacons, being 2.5 metres wide and bright orange last year 36 Highways England gritters were driven into.

Gritters weigh up to 26 tonnes and travel at 40mph when they’re spreading salt. They often travel in the middle lane of a motorway to ensure the right amount of salt is spread to all lanes.

Highways England’s winter manager, Tim Calvert, said:

“Although the vast majority of people support our gritter drivers by leaving a sensible distance and only passing when it’s safe to do so, we do have occasions when people misjudge the situation and end up colliding with one of our vehicles.

“We have also noticed a growing problem with drivers using the hard shoulder to undertake gritters, risking a collision with stationary vehicles on the hard shoulder and causing a hazard to gritter drivers who need to exit at motorway junctions.

“During severe weather it’s really important that we keep traffic moving and our gritters are out on the network enabling us to do that.”

Tim Calvert stood in front of 1,700 tonnes of salt at Birdwell

The back of a gritter is the most vulnerable area as it’s where the salt spreading equipment is located. If it’s struck it can mean the gritter has to be taken off the road to be repaired, which is costly and could affect critical services in extreme weather conditions.

Tim added:

“We are doing what we can to improve the visibility of our fleet and we are rolling out a number of new vehicles, starting last month in East Anglia, which include a large rear chevron panel which will improve the visibility.”

Gritter drivers often feel vulnerable while out on the network due to the reduced speeds of 30 and 40mph that they have to travel.

Mark Crossley has been driving a gritter on the M1 for the last 13 years and is based at our A-one+ depot in Birdwell. He is just one of the hundreds of gritter drivers that help to keep traffic moving in the Yorkshire region.

Mark, pictured above, said: “Travelling at 40mph down a motorway means that we are reliant on drivers paying close attention. We often find it difficult to exit junctions because we have vehicles undertaking us and getting into the middle lane to start gritting the motorway can also be difficult especially when the roads are busy.

“But what is more disheartening is that we can sometimes get verbal abuse and objects thrown at us from passing vehicles which isn’t nice when only what you are trying to do is keep the network safe for them to travel on.”

During severe weather drivers are urged to follow this advice:

  • In snow and ice, drivers should stick to the main roads where they can and only travel if necessary drivers are also encouraged to make sure they have a winter kit in their vehicle, including an ice scraper and de-icer, warm clothes and blankets and sunglasses to cope with the low winter sun
  • In high winds, there’s a particular risk to lorries, caravans and motorbikes, so drivers should slow down and avoid using exposed sections of road if possible
  • In heavy rain, drivers should keep well back from the vehicle in front, gradually ease off the accelerator if the steering becomes unresponsive, and slow down if the rain and spray from vehicles makes it difficult to see and be seen
  • In fog, drivers should switch on their fog lights and not use lights on full beam as the fog will reflect the light back. If you really cannot see, you should consider stopping until it is safe to continue

Drivers are advised to follow messages on the overhead signs and listen to radio updates. Further information can be found by visiting the or calling the Highways England Information Line on 0300 123 5000.