Drivers told to be careful around gritters

13 November 2018, 06:00

Gritter collisions

Despite being bright orange, having flashing amber beacons and being 2.5m wide, more than 30 gritters were driven into last year.

They often travel in the middle lane of a motorway to ensure the right amount of salt is spread to all lanes, but some impatient drivers are putting their own and the lives of gritter drivers at risk, with some dangerous overtaking. 

Paul Furlong, Highways England's national winter and severe weather team leader, 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.'' 

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. 

Gritter drivers often feel vulnerable while out on the network due to the reduced speeds of 30 and 40mph that they have to travel, and two incidents involving gritter vehicles were recorded in the South West last year. 

Mike Widger, a driver with Ringway, who service and maintain Highways England’s South West network, said: ''Undertaking is almost a daily occurrence every time we go out. 

''The hard shoulder is supposed to be for emergencies, breakdowns and emergency vehicles only, but we see cars, lorries and HGVs using it to get past us. It’s very worrying because in the dark and poor visibility you just can’t see if a vehicle has broken down or is stationary in the hard shoulder. 

''We are doing a job to keep the network moving and to keep road users safe, and we want to get home safely too.''