Prepare for winterWith winter fast approaching, salt stocks are being replenished, new equipment has been purchased and the Met Office is teaming up with the highway authorities to provide the best possible service in anticipation of the forthcoming winter weather.

However, the message from the Freight Transport Association is that drivers and fleet operators must also be prepared for the onslaught of winter.

Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s head of road network management policy said: “Up to three years ago there was a whole generation of drivers which had never experienced severe winter conditions, but in 2010 and 2011 many learned that going out on UK roads when winter can hit suddenly is not advisable without taking sensible precautions. Insufficient preparation can lead to lives being put at risk, people stranded for uncomfortable lengths of time, and emergency services becoming stretched.”

Bingham said being aware of approaching winter weather is vital, as is the availability of reliable information that allows informed decisions on where and when to travel. The highway authorities have devised a robust system to inform travellers and fleet operators of approaching storms that can bring high winds, ice and snow, and how that will impact on the network.

It is therefore up to drivers to take responsibility for what they do in such difficult periods.

In addition to warning drivers, the FTA said it is essential to have vehicles properly prepared. The decision about what an individual transport operator should do is related to the sort of operations being undertaken, and while a few years ago there was a cry for all goods vehicles to have winter tyres, it is now recognised operators should be allowed to make their own decisions. In certain conditions, snow chains are appropriate and some operators who travel in areas where the weather can be very cold look to change to winter tyres as a matter of course.

Bingham continued: “This year, highway authorities are asking for drivers to be made aware when gritters are operating. The new method used by the national authorities is to spread salt in a brine solution, which is more accurate in its spread. It also preserves salt stocks, as they use less in the spread, and it does not blow away, which tends to happen in wintry conditions when dry salt is applied. If drivers are in the vicinity of a spreader they should back off and let it get on with its work – it will only be there for a relatively short time. To accurately spread, they must travel at about 40 mph – and this sometimes means we need to slow down to let them get on with keeping the network open.”

FTA’s website contains advice for both managers and drivers on dealing with poor weather conditions and, in addition to national and local radio, FTA’s own traffic service will once again be providing vital amber and red alerts for winter weather, and now operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Winter information can be found on the FTA website at in the ‘Roads’ section.