At this moment, gritter lorries are making their rounds across England, Scotland and Wales, battling to make the roads a safer place for determined motorists. In reaction to the cold snap and sudden snowfall, the gritter lorries have been out in full force for days. And if you spot a gritter lorry out and about, it’s a pretty good indicator that it’s going to get icy. In Scotland, you can even track their amusingly named gritting lorries (our favourites are Gritty Gritty Bang Bang, Luke Snowalker and Gritty Gonzales) on a map to see if your area has been cleared yet. But how do gritter lorries work, and why are they so important to the UK roads? And who drives them anyway?
Gritter lorries are quite simple really – they just deposit rock salt onto the road. No fancy chemical added or anything like that, just garden variety, unrefined salt. The salt is stored in a large hopper, which makes up the back of the lorry. All of its exits are protected by a fine mesh, which stops foreign objects getting into the salt and blocking the mechanism. The salt is pushed through a tube by a small motor and spread onto the road using an impeller, which looks a lot like a big dustpan. This means it can be spread evenly over the road’s surface. It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it to ensure the safety of road users.
Gritter lorries use salt on the roads for 3 reasons. The first is the fact that the chemical composition of salt means that it causes ice and snow to melt into water, and then absorbs the water. This means that it will stop any ice or snow from ‘sticking’ to the road’s surface and making it unsafe for drivers. The second is the fact that it’s a rough, course material, making it a perfect grippy surface for tyres, preventing sliding and accidents. And the third is that it’s natural and eco-friendly, so it won’t harm the environment or any wildlife that comes into contact with it.
So, who drives gritting lorries? After all, the UK might be cold, but gritting the roads isn’t exactly a full-time job. But it’s an essential one, and it often requires all night driving to make sure the roads are safe before the morning commute begins. Most drivers will work between November and April when snow is most likely. They also tend to work mostly at night, to ensure the roads are ready and safe for the morning commute. So during the warmer weather, drivers will usually take on other jobs. For example, gritter drivers who work for councils might work on the motorways, or as bin lorry drivers for the rest of the year, only taking on gritter driving when it’s needed. But the council aren’t the only ones who need to prevent ice. Plenty of private companies – like supermarkets, retailers and private business parks will need gritting for their parking spaces. For private drivers, they will often drive delivery lorries.
Pay for driving a gritter lorry varies quite a lot, from £10 an hour right up to £250 a night. The pay gap largely depends on the company you will be working for, the kind of vehicle you’ll be driving and even where in the country you are. But one thing is for sure – you will need a Cat C or Cat B license in order to qualify to drive one.
At The LGV Training Centre, we are able to train drivers for any HGV qualification. We can also advise you on what license would be best to train for, and help you find employment once you are qualified. So this winter, don’t just sit and watch Gritty McVittie go by – get behind the wheel instead! For more information, just get in touch with us today.