They brave the freezing cold to make the streets safe for us. So as the winter starts to set in and we wait to see if snow comes, read on to find out how Jack feels about his important role of keeping Northamptonshire moving.
I work out of Brixworth for KierWSP and, for much of the year, I am part of a gang maintaining and improving roads and footpaths around the county. However, when the air chills and the white stuff appears I wait for my first call of the year to grit the roads.
When on call I am either on early shift or late shift all week, which means I am available either early’s midnight to midday or lates midday to midnight. The week is from Friday to Friday including weekends, bank and national holidays, I am on call two weeks out of three.
The call comes in after the governors decide if it is necessary to grit. I make my way into the depot, most drivers are already there or get there as fast as they can. The first thing I do is start my gritter up to get it warmed up and check it over to make sure that everything is working correctly and then fill it up with salt. I then pop in to the talk to the guys on the Snow Desk to check my route. We all know our routes and are kept up to date with any roadworks or issues we need to bear in mind. When we are out they can radio us all the time too.
I work as part of a team of 54 who keep the county moving when ice and snow sets in. We are a really close knit team who work together and are on call from Oct 1st to the end of April. Generally we work when roads are quieter and, as we often are out at night while you sleep, people do not realise just how much of the county we cover.
Northamptonshire has a network of 2400 miles of road and we grit 1128 miles which takes 3 hours to complete with 27 gritters. The trucks can move at a reasonable speed when the roads are quieter at night, but there was so much ice and snow last time, we were out day and night.
With the weather so bad earlier this year I was driving the same proritised routes over and over. You can’t just do a road once when the snow keeps coming, we are often continuously ploughing as well as gritting. This year we are using a new product called “Safecote”. This is covered in a sugar based solution called molasses which means it sticks better and we use less. Going to work has a whole new feel now as the grit barns smell sweet, in fact I smell sweet when I go home!
Every time we go out we don’t know what we may have to deal with. Sometimes we get a straight run and grit the whole route without too many issues. On other days we may have to deal with cars stuck in the snow or abandoned as some drivers just give up. I wish they wouldn’t though, as it can delay us and makes it difficult to get past.
The long hours can take their toll but it is the stick we get from the public that drives me mad sometimes. People seem to think we have can go anywhere, grit everything and that roads are all safe and clear , but we just can’t. Most of the estates are impossible to get in and out of and we simply cannot do them. We work really hard to keep routes open and also work with the Borough Council to keep paths clear. You can help us too though by using the grit in one of the 1780 grit bins.
A lot of people don’t realise we also work with the emergency services and are often first on the scene at accidents. If you saw what I see you really would drive more carefully. Not all roads are gritted and people think they are and do not drive carefully. I wish they would.
Earlier this year was the worst I have seen it for years. I slept, ate and gritted. Over and over again. Many of us spent a lot of time away from our families, and even missed our Christmas dinner! Not that I mind. We work flat out during bad weather and really want to do our best for you. I love this job and know that if we work together as a team and get the job done we can be sure the travelling public have a safer journey. That is a really good feeling. Overall people are are pleased to see us and we do everything we can to help.
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KierWSP grits the roads on behalf of Northamptonshire County Council.
There are three KierWSP gritting depots in Brixworth, Wellingborough and Towcester.
12,000 tonnes of gritting salt is stored at the depot in Brixworth in three salt stores
Gritters are either eight or 12 tonne vehicles
There are seven weather stations in the county which are checked regularly to decide whether gritters should be dispatched
There are 37 farmers on stand-by ready to attach snow ploughs to their tractors and help clear the roads in snow storms