Dealing with winter challenges on the roads

This story was published 30 November 2017

During current snowfalls, North Yorkshire County Council has been out on the roads with its fleet of gritters and today (30 November) we continue to grit in areas where snow is falling.


“Dealing with severe winter conditions on such a large road network is a complex operation. But it is a top priority to keep the county on the move”, said County Councillor Don Mackenzie, the Executive Member for Highways.

“We continue to grit as required as we strive to keep the roads network open, but during heavy snowfall, such as we have seen this week in parts of the county, driving conditions may become difficult. We could see issues on some roads during this afternoon’s rush hour as snow continues and freezing conditions could also create difficulties during tomorrow morning’s rush hour.

“Our first priority is the major routes that connect or pass through the county’s towns and we will clear these before moving onto our second level of priority routes that provide access to smaller communities.

“We do everything we can to keep traffic flowing, but it is important for drivers to drive with caution and consider whether their journey is absolutely necessary.”

The County Council regards winter maintenance as a high priority. It maintains a £6m annual budget and over half of its 5,500 mile road network, one of the largest in the country, is gritted on a priority basis. The council has 55,000 tonnes of salt stocks. In addition, there are 8,000 grit heaps and bins.

In addition to its fleet of 86 gritters, the County Council can call on 111 farming contractors and a number of road and footway snowblowers to support the work to keep highways open. Our gritting crews are on call 24 hours a day and typically start gritting at 5am.

The County Council uses the latest weather forecasting technology in planning its gritting operations. This includes ice prediction weather stations, a 24-hour weather forecast and road temperature sensor data.

The annual budget for winter maintenance is £6m and 54 per cent of the roads are gritted on a priority basis. The council has 55,000 tonnes of salt stocks. In addition, there are 8,000 grit heaps and bins. Further details can be found at During gritting operations, updates will be posted on the council’s Twitter account. Follow @northyorkscc or #nygrit.

Advice for drivers about preparing for winter driving can be found at

Busting myths about gritting

  • Gritting does not always guarantee an ice-free road surface and salt is less effective the colder it gets. Rain and surface water run-off can also reduce the effectiveness of our gritting by washing the salt away. When we grit a road, further snowfall can lay on top of the road surface. This covers the salt and can make it look like a road hasn’t been gritted. Traffic needs to drive over a gritted road to grind the salt and activate it. Salt alone does not melt snow and ice.
  • Sometimes, even if the air temperature is below freezing, roads retain a small amount of heat, meaning that ice won't form on them, in which case we would not grit. Sometimes there isn't enough moisture in the air to form ice, even if it's below freezing. We use a combination of air and road surface temperature forecasts to decide when and where to grit.
  • If air temperature rises, it can take a little time for road surface temperatures to rise too. As a result, moisture on the road can freeze, so we may still grit even if air temperature is above freezing.
  • Gritters don't always spread salt the moment they leave the depot; they may be travelling to another location to spread salt or may be returning to the depot to refill.
  • The county council's road network is one of the largest in the country, after Highways England. It can take time for gritters to reach their destination and begin gritting. Gritters usually begin work at 5am. Priority one roads are usually completed between 5am and 7am. Priority two roads are usually completed between 7.30am and 10am, once priority one roads are complete.